Making his debut in electoral politics, Karti P. Chidambaram, son of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, and All India Congress Committee (AICC) member, is ploughing a lonely furrow in his father’s home turf and a Congress bastion.
Locked in a five-cornered contest, the Texas and Cambridge-educated Karti has entered the election arena at a time when the Congress is waging a lone battle in the State. But the young politician seems to be brimming with confidence as he walks along with his father from one campaign venue to another in this sprawling rural constituency in the heart of ‘Chettinad’.
“One cannot choose the pitch. I am ready to bat with a straight bat,” says Mr. Karti when pointed out that he has to begin his innings when the party is left with no partners. “My father has brought in significant development to the area and I hope to win,” he says, exuding confidence.
Mr. Chidambaram has created a record of sorts, winning the Sivaganga seat seven times since 1984, of which five times have been in a row. Barring the 2009 General Elections, when he scraped through with a margin of 3,354 votes, he had won all the other elections hands down.
Sivaganga had been a Congress bastion since 1952 before the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) captured the seat in the 1967 and 1971 elections and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the 1977 elections. But the Congress wrested the seat in the 1980 elections and has been retaining it since then.
In 1999, Mr. Chidambaram, as a Tamil Maanila Congress nominee, had lost the seat to Congress candidate E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan only to win back in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Sivaganga, Karaikudi, Tirupattur, Manamadurai (Reserved), Thirumayam and Alangudi Assembly segments constitute the Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency with Thirumayam and Alangudi located in the neighbouring Pudukottai district.
A majority of the people depend on agriculture for their livelihood and have faced severe droughts during the last two seasons. People had been demanding industries with potential for employing a large number of people, to partly offset the uncertainty in agriculture.
Though the AIADMK had won the seat only once in 1977, its nominee, P. R. Senthil Nathan, a new face, has now the advantage of having party MLAs in four of the six Assembly segments.
The Tirupattur Assembly constituency is held by the DMK and Sivaganga by the Communist Party of India (CPI). While the DMK has fielded old timer S. P. Durairaj, the CPI has put up S. Krishnan, a practicing advocate. The entry of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee H. Raja has made the contest vibrant. He was the runner-up in the 1999 elections with 2.22 lakh votes in his kitty.
“This time the contest is tough. There is a five-cornered contest for the first time but it has narrowed down to a fight among the AIADMK, DMK and the Congress. I am not able to judge who has the edge,” says A. Thiagarajan, who runs a grocery shop at Sankarapuram.
Detractors target Mr. Chidambaram in their attacks for doing nothing, but the Union Minister says he had fully utilised the constituency development fund of Rs. 19 crore and lists out his achievements. He had helped establish a unit of BHEL, Spices Park, coir unit and a Battalion of the CISF in the constituency.
Three National Highways, opening of 74 new bank branches and desilting of 317 kanmais (tanks) and 97 ooranis (water bodies) are among his other achievements, Mr. Thiagarajan adds.
Rail links between Karaikudi and Madurai and Karaikudi and Kanyakumari, a mini airport, a graphite factory in Sivaganga and Central University status for Algappa University are some of long-pending demands, points out Samy Thiravidamani, secretary, Karaikudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.