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A straight contest on the cards

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S. Vijay Kumar

Hectic campaign comes to a close

MADURAI: It is a straight contest between archrivals, the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the Madurai Central constituency, though the Vijaykant factor also matters.

With hectic campaign for the first by-election in the constituency, which was necessitated following the demise of HR and CE Minister, P.T.R. Palanivel Rajan, concluding at 5 p.m. on Monday, law-enforcing agencies heaved a sigh of relief.

The DMK and the AIADMK have accused each other of bribing voters by distributing money.

There were also complaints of violence in some parts of the constituency, where the polling is slated for October 11.

The DMK has fielded the former Deputy Mayor, S.S. Ghouse Basha, and the AIADMK has nominated former MP, V.V. Rajan Chellappa. The DMDK has introduced M.R. Panneerselvam as its candidate.

Among the 19 candidates in the fray, 14 are Independents.

Of the 12 Assembly elections held since 1957, the Congress had won on six occasions.

The DMK represented the constituency four times and the AIADMK once in 1977. P. Nedumaran, who contested in 1980 as an Independent, defeated Palanivel Rajan of the DMK by a margin of 14,134 votes.

In the 2001 election, M.A. Hakeem of Tamil Manila Congress (who later joined the AIADMK) scraped through by a margin of 147 votes against the DMK candidate, S. Paulraj.

In the 2006 election, Palanivel Rajan defeated the AIADMK candidate, S.T.K. Jakkayan, by a margin of 7,193 votes.

The DMDK, founded by politician-turned-film actor, Vijaykant, polled 12,038 votes.

The DMK is banking on "good governance" and "fulfilment of poll promises", while the AIADMK is accusing the Government of "not preventing chikungunya that had claimed 280 lives from spreading in the State."

The former Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, also alleged in her campaign that the freebies reached only a handful of DMK functionaries and that they "go with the winds" after the local body elections.

Mr. Vijaykant, who drew good crowds wherever he went, blamed both the DMK and the AIADMK of "misusing" power for "personal" gains.

The caste factor is not absent here. Mr. Rajan Chellappa belongs to the Mukkulathor community, which dominates with an estimated 28,729 votes.

Mr. Gouse Basha is banking on the Muslim votes, the second largest (21,300).

Mr. Pannerselvam hails from the Yadava community that claims to have nearly 13,000 votes.

"Though Mukkulathors are in majority, never was a candidate from their community elected from this constituency. The Congress vote-bank is strong and the deciding factor in Madurai Central. The addition of the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) is an advantage to the Democratic Progressive Alliance as there are nearly 17,500 Dalit votes," says S. Peer Mohammed (40) of Palanganatham.

With 15 wards of the Corporation, the constituency is the smallest in the district.

The Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple is located here. It appears that the contest is heading for a nail-biting finish.

Electorate: 1,34,913 men and 67,825 women.

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