Dravidian majors pitted in a close contest
Perhaps the only constituency in the entire State to house all five types of ecological zones described in the ancient Tamil literature — “kurinji” (hilly region), “mullai” (forests), “marutham” (flat croplands), “neithal” (seashore) and “paalai” (desert) — Tirunelveli, once a communally volatile region, witnesses a four-cornered contest in the Lok Sabha elections.
A Congress forte between 1951 and 1967, Tirunelveli, comprising Tirunelveli, Palayamkottai, Nanguneri, Radhapuram, Alangulam and Ambasamudram Assembly segments, came under the sway of the major Dravidian parties in the subsequent elections till 1999. In the last two Lok Sabha polls, the segment, comprising 26 per cent of Nadar voters, followed by Dalits (17 per cent) and Thevar (14.50 per cent), elected Congress candidates R. Dhanushkodi Adityan and S.S. Ramasubbu. They fought the polls with the DMK’s backing.
Though the AIADMK, the DMK, the Congress, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Aam Aadmi Party have fielded their candidates, all from the Nadar community, the basic fight this time is between the AIADMK’s P. Prabhakaran and the DMK’s C. Devadasa Sundaram, chairman of a Chennai-based construction company involved in projects worth hundreds of crores of rupees. The Vijayakant-led DMDK in the BJP front has fielded S. Sivanaintha Perumal.
The AIADMK started its campaign on a positive note, but its electioneering lost intensity soon. Hand-picked by party leader Ms. Jayalalithaa Mr. Prabhakaran is still unable to get party leaders’ wholehearted cooperation to galvanise the electioneering. There is a murmur among the cadre that some of their leaders wantonly kept a “low profile” at the instance of “a few powerful external forces in the DMK.”
At the other end, DMK office-bearers are working seriously to ensure the victory of Mr. Sundaram, who was hand-picked by party treasurer M.K. Stalin.
While the Tamil Nadu Thowheedh Jamaath’s support to the AIADMK could enhance Mr. Prabhakaran’s prospects as the outfit is stronger than other Muslim groups in the district, the fielding of Social Democratic Party of India’s V.M.S. Mohamed Mubarak will be a disadvantage to Mr. Sundaram as the DMK always enjoyed the backing of Muslims. Similarly, the AIADMK might find the going tough in the Nanguneri and Ambasamudram Assembly segments, the ‘Thevar’ strongholds, though it expects to draw on the community’s traditional support since MGR’s days. The sitting Congress MP Mr. Ramasubbu, hopes his Parliamentary performance will stand him in good stead.
The Nanguneri Multiproduct Special Economic Zone and the Gangaikondan Information Technology Special Economic Zone, aimed at providing employment to thousands of youths in this region, have been non-starters. Inadequate rail and road infrastructure, lack of facility to evacuate wind power and pollution of the Tamirabharani are among the other issues that affect the electorate, besides price rise and power cuts.