A.V. Ragunathan

AIADMK, PMK and DMDK candidates in fray Opponents of sitting MLA Velmurugan raking up court case

CUDDALORE: The Panruti Assembly constituency, endowed with rich cash crops such as cashew and jackfruit, has been a commercial hub of Cuddalore district. It is also known for its spiritual fervour and is politically vibrant.

T. Velmurugam, sitting MLA of Pattali Makkal Katchi, is pitted against R. Rajendran, district secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and former Minister S. Ramachandran of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, founded by actor Vijayakant.

Mr. Velmurugan, a firebrand politician, has been contributing his entire salary for the past five years to 120 odd students for pursuing higher education, including professional courses.

Basically a team man, Mr. Velumurugan has been regularly addressing the grievances of the people. Through his efforts, he has brought in Rs. 200 crore worth of projects from the aggregate funds of the Centre, MLA contributions and local bodies.

In the Assembly, he stoutly opposed the sinking of giant borewells in the Panruti region for tapping groundwater for the New Veeranam Project, "as it would result in ecological disaster."

He was instrumental in desilting the Wallajah canal and other water sources in the taluk and solving the water problem of 120 hamlets.

He has earned the goodwill of the Dalits by having built Adi Dravida hostels and schools with toilet facilities at a cost of Rs 80 lakh and repaired many cluster houses.

However, his opponents are raking up a court case (murder of the AIADMK councillor Venkatesan) against Mr. Velmurugan. The MLA says the case is foisted and that when the crime occurred he was presiding over a volleyball match at Kolakudi.

Mr. Panruti S. Ramachandran, a veteran politician, has won six of the seven Assembly elections contested and he is in the fray on the DMDK ticket for the eighth time.

During the MGR regime, he was sent to the United Nations Organisation in 1983 to take up the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

He was also deputed to represent Tamil Nadu in talks to resolve its riparian rights.

In political wilderness

He was in political wilderness from 1992 to 2001 and with the launching of the DMDK he has revived his political career.

Mr. Ramachandran exudes confidence that the traditional vote bank and the youth force of the DMDK will see him through.

Mr. Rajendran of AIADMK unsuccessfully contested the 1996 Assembly elections and later the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. In the absence of any wave as of now, he has to slog it out to capture the attention of the electorate.

It promises to be a close and tough contest this time.

The others who are in the fray are R.M. Selvakumar of Bharatiya Janata Party and G. Ramamurthy of the Bahujan Samaj Party and C. Kamalakannan, V.K. Kumaraguru and S.Balu, Independents.