Tamil Nadu

Political loyalty in sharp focus at Aravakurichi

Both AIADMK and AMMK are keen to pile on to DMK’s Senthil Balaji for switching sides

The Aravakurichi Assembly constituency, which hit the headlines in the 2016 Assembly election for all the wrong reasons, is witnessing an intense battle for political supremacy, even as the heat and dust of the Lok Sabha election are yet to settle.

Though the profile of the largely arid constituency had hardly undergone any change since the Assembly election in 2016, when large-scale distribution of cash for votes forced the Election Commission to rescind the polls, only to hold it six months later, the political climate has witnessed a sea-change as local strongman and former Minister V. Senthil Balaji had switched sides after being disqualified as a legislator by the Assembly Speaker following his brief dalliance with the V.K. Sasikala-T.T.V. Dhinakaran camp.

The staunch loyalist of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has since moved to the DMK, proclaiming that party leader M.K. Stalin alone can provide the strong leadership the State requires. Mr. Stalin, who had been a vocal critic of Mr. Balaji during his tenure as Transport Minister and in the 2016 election in Aravakurichi, has also reciprocated and extensively toured the constituency, seeking support for Mr. Balaji and affirming that he was a victim of political vendetta.

The AIADMK has fielded the district secretary of its youth wing, V.V. Senthilnathan, who lost to K.C. Pallani Shamy of the DMK in 2011 by a narrow margin. Hailing from the dominant Kongu Vellalar community, both Mr. Senthilnathan and Mr. Balaji are on a whirlwind tour of the constituency to win over the voters.

The AIADMK is going all-out to ensure the defeat of Mr. Balaji for “betraying” the party, and so is the AMMK. Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam launched direct and scathing attacks on Mr. Balaji, accusing him of being a turncoat. The AMMK, which has fielded P.H. Shahul Hameed of Pallapatti, has also been highlighting Mr. Balaji’s political inconsistency, and Mr. Dhinakaran went to town accusing the former Minister of being “power hungry”.

The constituency extends from Aravakurichi and Pallapatti in the south to Velayuthampalayam in the north. While Velayuthampalayam and Thalavaipalayam are blessed with fertile land, most parts of Aravakurichi and K. Paramathi unions are characterised by parched lands and rocky terrain. Although Karur district is known for its vibrant handloom textile industry, industrialisation has not spread to Aravakurichi but for the blue metal units at Thennilai and K. Paramathi and the Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Paper Ltd. at Pugalur.

Acute shortage of drinking water has emerged a major poll issue in the constituency. Water is supplied once in three or four days in most parts of the constituency. Voters, fed up with the failure of successive governments to implement the proposed combined Cauvery water project, express resentment when the candidates visit their villages, seeking votes. “Water is supplied once in four days. It is highly insufficient. Women have to walk miles to fetch water. The problem has been persisting for two decades now and is getting worse by the day,” says Saravanan, 40, a resident of Aravakurichi.

Aravakurichi is famous for drumstick, which is in good demand. Yet, in the absence of cold storage facilities, farmers complain of poor returns as “middlemen eat into their profit”. Farmers say that the 20-year-old demand and promise to establish a cold storage facility by political parties is still on paper. They are also sore over the failure of successive governments in promoting industrialisation in Aravakrichi and Pallapatti.

Minority voters of Pallapatti, who constitute about one-fourth of the voters in the constituency, could prove to be the key in deciding the outcome of the bypoll and are being wooed by almost all parties.

Muslim vote

Although the DMK camp are confident about their traditional vote bank, the sizeable turnout of Muslims for the campaign of Mr. Dhinakaran, MNM leader Kamal Haasan and Naam Tamilar Katchi co-coordinator Seeman has raised apprehension over a possible split in votes in Pallappati.

The constituency is witnessing a multi-cornered contest, with as many as 63 candidates, including Makkal Needhi Maiam’s S. Mohanraj and Naam Tamilar Katchi’s P.K. Selvam, in the fray. However, the main battle seems to be between the AIADMK and the DMK.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 12:39:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/political-loyalty-in-sharp-focus-at-aravakurichi/article27142570.ece

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