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February 17, 1998


Campaign Trail/ A Ganesh Nadar

In Tenkasi, it is worldly matters that matter

Tenkasi is a reserved constituency, and includes the assembly constituencies of Alangulam, Ambasamudram, Kadayanallur, Sankaran Koil, Tenkasi and Vasudevanallur. It has a million voters with women outnumbering men by a slim margin. The entire constituency falls within the Tirunelveli district.

The famous Courtallam waterfalls are part of this constituency. Union Minister M Arunachalam's home is also in Courtallam. And since he has been the MP for this constituency since 1977, his presence in the fray, on the Tamil Maanila Congress ticket, makes this a prestigious contest.

Challenging Arunachalam's monopoly are V Selvaraj of the Congress, S Murugesan of the AIADMK and Dr Krishnasamy of the Puthiya Tamilagam (a dalit party)

Well begun is half done, but the election to this constituency did not begin well. In fact it began with the death of TMC worker. On the 27th of January both Arunachalam and Krishnasamy went to file their nominations at the Tirunelveli collectorate.

In the scuffle between the supporters of the two candidates, Anbu, a TMC worker, was thrown into the Tambiraparani river. His body was recovered the next day. The TMC leaders gave his family Rs 50,000. The police has not done anything. Chief Minister M Karunanidhi probably does not want to lose the dalit votes.

In Alangulam, state law minister Aladi Aruna is canvassing vigorously for his alliance partner, and it looks like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is doing all the work. The TMC is just not visible. Local people say that though Congressmen joined the TMC all over the state in Alangulam they remained with the Congress. And the Congress has been revitalised after Sonia Gandhi hit the campaign trail.

In Alangulam most voters say that "Arunachalam has never done anything for the constituency. He must have done small favours, never anything big."

During the panchayat election the AIADMK and the Congress worked together and defeated the DMK. And since the Congress and the AIADMK are contesting separately this time, the DMK will obviously benefit.

The Mannur Union Panchayat in the Alangulam assembly area is a predominantly dalit area. No party is allowed to canvass here, and it is Krishnasamy territory. Aladi Aruna did try to go there but he was sent out with 'Krishnasamy zindabad'.

Tenkasi is the biggest town in this constituency. There are other smaller town like Alangulam, Ambasamundram, Kadayam, Pavur Chatram among others. All these towns are well connected by very good roads. But a tea-shop owner said. "Don't be misled by the roads, they were laid last month because of the election. You should have come earlier, they were horrible. I am not going to vote -- nobody does anything for us."

A passerby said, "Selvaraj is honest but his party is not up to the mark. If they had a good alliance partner he would have won. If people vote for honesty, Selvaraj will win."

Even in Ambasamudram the response was unanimous. "Arunachalam has never done anything for this constituency." I wonder how this man has been MP for 20 years if he never did anything. Why people voted for him remains a deep mystery.

AIADMK candidate Murugesan has the best chance of beating Arunachalam. Apart from the AIADMK votes he has over 50,000 BJP votes and 20,000 PMK votes to help him.

Though Krishnasamy of the Puthiya Tamilagam is expected to get all the dalit votes, John Pandian, a leader of the Devendra Kula Federation (another dalit party), is canvassing for Arunachalam.

Interestingly, Rajnikanth posters are being used both by the Congress and TMC candidates. Last week, the Rajnikanth Fan Club organised a road roko to protest the use of posters by the Congress. Naturally, the police are looking into it.

Selvaraj is a former IAS officer and husband of Chandralekha, the state Janata Party president on whom acid was thrown during the Jayalalitha regime.

The chances of the AIADMK candidate are bright too as the law of averages threatens the Union minister who never does anything.

Campaign Trail

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