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A wafer-thin margin of victory on the cards

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S. Ganesan

A small segment, it has seen closely fought battles

TIRUCHI: One of the smallest constituencies in the State in terms of voter strength, the Tiruchi-I Assembly segment has seen several closely fought electoral battles over the past five decades. The ensuing election promises to be no different.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which has had a better share in most elections here by winning seven times since 1951, is locked in yet another stiff fight, this time with the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). Tiruchi-I is one of the two constituencies in Tiruchi district that have been allotted to the MDMK in the AIADMK front.

Interestingly, it is a former DMK veteran, A. Malarmannan (now the urban district secretary of the MDMK), who will be crossing swords with Anbil Periasamy, the sitting MLA of Tiruchi-II, now shifted to this constituency. Mr. Malarmannan, who threw his lot with Vaiko when he floated the MDMK, has won the seat twice on DMK ticket in 1984 and 1989.

In 1991, contesting again on a DMK ticket, he lost to the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's S.Arockiasamy. The AIADMK has had its moments of glory too and the party had won the seat thrice. The Congress had tasted success in 1951, when the constituency was known as Tiruchi South, and in 1957 E.P.Mathuram won as an Independent.

Though as many as 12 candidates are in the fray in this constituency for the forthcoming election, the main fight would be between the DMK and the MDMK. The Bharatiya Janata Party's district president, R.Thirumalai and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam's P. Uma are among the other contestants.

This is a constituency where a few hundred votes could make a vital difference.

Though he is on a familiar turf, an ageing Mr. Malaramannan does not have much to show by way of performance during his previous tenures. He would have to lean heavily on the AIADMK support base.

The DMK too is not without its share of worries. Mr. Anbil Periasamy, son of the late Anbil Dharmalingam, is on a tricky wicket having been forced to change his constituency to accommodate the party strongman, K.N. Nehru in Tiruchi-II. The sitting MLA of the constituency, B. Bharani Kumar, considered a one-time close associate of the party deputy general secretary, M.K. Stalin, has been denied the seat this time. Supporters of Mr. Bharani Kumar, son of the former Municipal Chairman, M. Balakrishnan, have not been amused. Mr. Bharani Kumar scraped through by a narrow margin of just about 900 votes in the 2001 elections, though he had won convincingly by over 27,000 votes in 1996.

Local issues

A few major civic projects such as the shifting of the Gandhi Market and strengthening the urban infrastructureare among the key local issues in the compact constituency that has an electorate of 1,17,074.

The constituency, mostly spread over the erstwhile Tiruchi Municipal limits, has a strong minority presence. The strong Muslim and Christian population would have a definite say in the final outcome. Significantly, both the candidates seek to shore up support of this important vote bank. Traders also form another important chunk of the electorate. Whatever be the outcome, the margin of victory here, in all probability, is likely to be wafer thin.

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