Lok Sabha polls | Intense battle unfolds in Perambalur as scion seeks to expand father’s political footprint

April 08, 2024 12:25 am | Updated 01:01 pm IST - PERAMBALUR

A view of Melamathur Sri Maruthaiyan Kovil in Perambalur district

A view of Melamathur Sri Maruthaiyan Kovil in Perambalur district | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

The battle of the ballot in the predominantly rural Perambalur Lok Sabha constituency has heated up this election with the entry of K.N. Arun Nehru, the son of K.N. Nehru, the Municipal Administration Minister and the DMK’s strongman from Tiruchi.

It will essentially be a triangular contest with the two Dravidian majors having largely held sway since Era Sezhiyan won here in 1962. The DMK’s young gun is pitted against the AIADMK’s N.D. Chandramohan, a nephew of late DMK Minister N. Selvaraj, who joined the AIADMK towards the fag end of his political career, and Indhiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK) founder T.R. Paarivendhar, who is contesting his third election from here, this time on a BJP ticket. R. Thenmozhi of the NTK and R. Elangovan of the Bahujan Samaj Party are in the fray.

M. Paarivendhar, the 82-year-old patriarch of the SRM Group of Institutions, will pose a challenge to the DMK and the AIADMK yet again. In 2014, he contested in the seat as part of the BJP alliance and came third, playing spoilsport for the DMK by polling over 2.38 lakh votes. In the previous general election, he switched sides and won handsomely by contesting on the DMK symbol.

Though a political novice, Mr. Arun, 40, will largely be on familiar territory as Lalgudi, the hometown of his father, and three other Assembly segments in Tiruchi district fall under the Perambalur Lok Sabha constituency. In an apparent attempt to familiarise himself with voters, Mr. Arun has been covering the length and breadth of the constituency in a gruelling campaign steered by his father. Hailing from the Reddiar community, Mr. Arun will be hoping that his outreach, and the goodwill enjoyed by his father in his hometown, would offset the caste arithmetic in the constituency where Mutharaiyars are dominant.

Mr. Chandramohan, 51, belonging to the Mutharaiyar community and Mr. Paarivendhar, an Udayar, would hope to cash in on the support of their respective communities.

The constituency spreads out from the fertile Cauvery delta areas of Kulithalai and Lalgudi to the dry rain-fed tracts of Perambalur, with diverse aspirations and requirements. The absence of a railway line has irked voters, and despite repeated assurances by elected representatives, no one has been able to push through a viable proposal. The dream could not be realised even when two of its MPs — A. Raja and D. Napoleon of the DMK — served in Union Cabinets in the past. This election, all major contestants have made promises to ensure that Perambalur is put on the railway map.

“Promises are made every election; but a rail link remains a dream,” says R. Raja Chidambaram, a veteran farmers’ leader from Perambalur. A rail line is essential to spur the rural economy, which is largely dependent on small onions, maize and cotton farming. A rail link would definitely bring faster development, say voters.

Developing the Manapparai-Perambalur road as a four-lane national highway would also push economic development, says S. Jeyaraman, president, Cauvery Padugai Farmers Federation. With Perambalur being a major small onion growing district in Tamil Nadu, farmers have often been hit by fluctuations in the price of shallots. The Centre should fix the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for small onions and procure it at times of distress, says Mr. Raja Chidambaram.

Farmers’ plea

For long, delta farmers in Kulithalai and Lalgudi have been demanding the construction of barrages across Cauvery and Kollidam rivers to harness rain flows and shore up the water table, and proper maintenance/modernisation of irrigation canals. Though a couple of barrages are under construction across the Cauvery in Karur district, farmers say that more such structures need to be built. “A barrage sanctioned across the Cauvery at Marudhur near Kulithalai is yet to take off,” says A.V. Gopaladesikan of Kulithalai.

Developing the tourism infrastructure of Pachamalai, which is a part of the Eastern Ghats, and Puliyancholai, a popular picnic spot on the foothills of Kolli Hills, is another popular demand among voters. “Parts of Pachamalai and its waterfalls in Tiruchi district offer excellent scope for promotion as a popular tourist attraction and could do with better infrastructure and amenities,” says N. Saravanan, a resident of Thuraiyur.

The ghat road from Shobanapuram to Top Sengattupatti should be transferred from the Forest Department and handed over to the Highways Department so that it could be properly maintained for the benefit of tourists visiting the hills, he added.

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