Long after veteran Congress leader K. Kamaraj, fondly remembered even now as ‘Appachchi’ here, was elected to Parliament from the then Nagercoil constituency, the spotlight has now turned on its successor post-delimitation, Kanyakumari, after a gap of 45 years.
But there is one crucial difference. The ‘star’ status that this constituency now vies for is not because another tall leader like Kamaraj is contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It is for how the minorities votes would go with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fielding its State president Pon. Radhakrishnan, endearingly called ‘Ponnar’ by his party cadre here.
While the BJP is being viewed as ‘communal, anti-minority or pro Hindutva’ by certain sections of the society here, this constituency is particularly sensitive to the religious tag, as minority Christians make up 44 per cent of its total population. Christians as a whole form about six per cent of Tamil Nadu’s population.
It is this factor that has attracted the electorate’s attention towards this constituency, where a person shaped by Hindutva, has been fielded by BJP in a place with strong Christian presence. The general opinion among the electorate here is that the Christian candidates fielded by the other major parties— AIADMK (John Thangam), DMK (F.M. Rajarathnam) and the CPI (M) (A.V. Bellarmine) would cause division of Christian votes to ensure a cakewalk for Mr. Radhakrishnan.
The Congress nominee H. Vasant Kumar, brother of former Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Kumari Ananthan, and anti-nuke activist S.P. Udayakumar on behalf of the Aam Aadmi Party are also in the fray.
However, the BJP cadre are unwilling to buy this argument, saying that Mr. Radhakrishnan’s personal rapport with the Christians here would certainly fetch him sizable votes this time.
“The DMK, during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, impressed upon the church leaders to pave way for consolidation of Christian votes that went against Ponnar. We don’t expect that to happen again, as his personal relationship with the Christians will ensure his thumping victory this time,” says a senior leader of the BJP’s district unit while admitting that attempts were being made once again to consolidate Christian votes on religious grounds.
Another factor that adds political colour to this constituency is that Mr. Radhakrishnan is likely to handle a relatively influential portfolio this time if the BJP forms government at the Centre. That would in turn benefit the constituency, feel a section of the voters here.
When Mr. Radhakrishnan was the Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the Union Cabinet headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee, his efforts to establish a ‘Youth Village’ of the Sports Authority of India in Kanyakumari district was then well received by the public.
But his efforts never took off as suitable land for this ambitious project could not be identified then and hence the anxious wait continues.