S. Sundar

The district is the home turf of the MDMK

VIRUDHUNAGAR: The six Assembly constituencies in Virudhunagar district can be taken as a touchstone to test the real strength of the Democratic People's Alliance.

For, the land of Kamaraj, which has sent many All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members, including its founder M.G. Ramachandran, to Fort St. George, is the home turf of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK).

Though the MDMK is yet to open its account in the Assembly, it has tasted success in the last three elections to the Sivakasi Parliamentary constituency. Earlier, the AIADMK had held the seat for four out of six times.

A quick look at the 2001 elections shows that the MDMK is indeed a force to reckon with. The few thousand votes its candidates got dealt a deadly blow to five DMK candidates. They got votes in the range of 10,000 to 24,000 that saw the DMK's defeat in four seats with slender margins.

Even DMK's K.K.S.S.R. Ramachandran, five-time MLA from Sattur, could only manage to squeeze through with a margin of 4,415 votes. This was a major reversal for the DMK that fought to retain four seats it had won with a huge margin in the previous elections.

The AIADMK and its ally, Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), won five out of six seats. Another ally, the Congress, lost Sattur. AIADMK's strong alliance dislodged five-time MLA and party dissident R. Tamaraikani from Srivilliputtur.

The sitting MLAs are Inbatamilan (Srivilliputtur), M. Rajasekaran (Rajapalayam) and K. K. Sivasamy (Aruppukottai), all AIADMK, A. Rajagopal (Sivakasi) and S. Damodaran (Virudhunagar), Congress (then TMC).

New faces

Only two sitting MLAs, Mr. Ramachandran and Mr. Damodaran (Virudhunagar), are in the fray now. Thevars, Dalits, Nadars and Telugu-speaking communities, who are dominant here, normally determine the outcome.

The Democratic People's Alliance will cross swords with the DMK in four seats. Though the AIADMK is contesting four seats, one more than in the last election, the party has surprisingly chosen three new faces to take on well-known DMK candidates.

G. Chokeeswaran is fighting Mr. Ramachandran in Sattur. M. Chandra, the only woman candidate from the two main alliances, will face two-time DMK MLA, V.P. Rajan, in Rajapalayam.

Former DMK MLA Thangam Thennarasu, who lost the 2001 elections, is facing another new entrant, K. Murugan, in Aruppukottai.

In Srivilliputtur, district secretary R. Vinayagamoorthy (AIADMK) will lock horns with his Communist Party of India counterpart, T. Ramasamy.

Both the MDMK's candidates, R. Gnanadoss and R. Varadharajan, have contested the Assembly elections once.

They are pitted against DMK's V. Thagaraj in Sivakasi and the Congress MLA, Mr. Damodaran, in Virudhunagar, respectively. The entry into the election arena of film star Vijayakant and his Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) could further complicate the political matrix here.

Poor interior roads, the absence of equitable distribution of drinking water, attempts to mechanise labour-intensive match industry, lack of a full-fledged burns ward at the Sivakasi Government hospital to treat victims of frequent accidents in fireworks units, the unfinished Irrukkangudi dam project, problems plaguing the handloom sector and slump in generation of new employment opportunities are the issues faced by the drought-prone district that has 11,79,840 voters.