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|August 21, 1999||
AIADMK's Pandian is the favourite in Tirunelveli
The Tirunelveli Lok Sabha constituency is adjacent to the Tiruchendur and Nagercoil constituencies. It includes the assembly constituencies of Tirunelveli, Palayamcottai, Ottapidaram, Srivaikuntam, Tuticorin and Vilathikulam.
This seat will see a direct contest between the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All-India Anna DMK. The Puthiya Tamizhagam candidate Bhaktavatchalam is as unknown, as are all the other eight independent candidates.
The AIADMK candidate is the high profile Paul Hector Pandian, former speaker of the Tamil Nadu assembly. He is unique in that he has never fallen at Amma's [Jayalalitha's] feet.
The DMK candidate is drab in comparison. Geetha Jeevan is the daughter of the Tuticorin Member of the Legislative Assembly N Periasamy.
Periasamy is also the DMK district secretary, the chairman of most of the co-operatives around, and owns about 150 shops and the biggest hotel in Tuticorin. His daughter is the chairperson of the district council.
Party workers are raging mad that Periasamy enjoys so many positions and now, on top of that, he wants an MP in the family. Jayalalitha in her public meeting at Tirunelveli last week remarked, "You [Periasamy] are everything here, there's nobody else in the party?" DMK workers are repeating her taunt like a sacred mantra.
In the last election, Sarath Kumar of the DMK lost by only 6000 votes. One of the reasons was that Perisamy did not work hard enough. At that time too he had demanded the seat for his daughter.
A senior DMK partyman said, "Karunanidhi purposely gave her the seat to teach Periasamy a lesson not to be greedy. He knows she doesn't stand a chance against P H Pandian."
Periasamy lost the goodwill of the Tuticorin voters within a year of becoming the MLA. In Tirunelveli, the AIADMK has stolen a march over its rivals in the campaigning: Jayalalitha herself toured the constituency while the opposition was still talking about seat-sharing.
Palayamcottai always votes for the DMK: that's what locals say. But autorickshaw drivers differ. ''Nobody has heard about Geetha -- Pandian will easily win," they chime.
Pandian, though, faces a peculiar problem. The Thevars, who comprise a sizeable percentage of the voters, are supposed to vote AIADMK because Sasikala Natarajan, Jayalalitha's friend and confidante, is a Thevar. But they will not, says a Palayamcottai local.
Why? Because the AIADMK district secretary, who is also a deputy general secretary of the party, is a Thevar. And the Thevars, at least a section of them, feel that if Pandian wins he will sideline the district secretary Karuppaswamy. Pandian is a Nadar and a Christian.
The Puthiya Tamizhagam candidate Bhaktavatchalam is expected to poll a few votes in the reserved assembly constituency Ottapidaram. The current MLA there is the PT chief Dr S Krishnasamy.
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