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February 20, 1998


Campaign Trail/Tiruchendur

Sports Minister D Adithan faces a tough match

A Ganesh Nadar in Tiruchendur

This is Dhanushkodi Adithan's constituency, he has has won this seat four times, and dethroning him will not be easy. He may not have done anything spectacular for this constituency, but he has done various small things like erecting bus stops and laying minor roads that have gone down well with the people.

The southernmost Lok Sabha constituency, Tiruchendur is made up of six assembly constituencies, Cheranmahedevi, Kanyakumari, Nanguneri, Radhapuram, Sathankulam and Tiruchendur.

It has 1,014,120 voters, broken up into 490,599 men and 518,521 women.

There are six candidates in the fray in the present round, among whom only three count: Adithan of the TMC, actor Ramarajan of the AIADMK and Kumari Anandan of the Congress.

Nadars form about 40 per cent of the electorate, but that is not going to help any particular party since all the three bigwigs belong to this community.

People say Adithan is very helpful when you need a phone or a gas connection. If your child doesn't get admission in school Adithan is the one to approach, but where big schemes are concerned he is at sea.

After becoming Union minister for sports, the first thing he did was attend the Olympics. And after coming back he announced that India would get 100 medals in the next Olympics, toning it down to 10 medals later. So far he has not done anything to make that a reality.

Adithan has one advantage that cannot be matched by any of his rivals. In his vast constituency that stretches over three districts, there must be more than one thousand villages. In every village Adithan knows at least a couple of people by their first names.

Imagine the effect on voters when an Union minister lands in their midst and calls a few of them by their first names. They are charmed off their feet.

The AIADMK cadres would like to counter this, and are all raring to go. Thanks to their silver jubilee held in neighbouring Tirunelveli in the first week of January they are in very high spirits. This is in total contrast to 1996 when they were dispirited because of the onslaught of the anti-Jayalalitha wave.

During the last Lok Sabha election Ramarajan had canvassed ineffectively for the AIADMK. The only reason that Jayalalitha has given him this ticket is because he is totally pliable -- people here say rather unkindly that if 'Amma' asks him to jump into a well, he'll do it.

After one week of campaigning Ramarajan hasn't even reached his constituency. He is campaigning elsewhere for the party, and making a hash of it.

Two days back in Theni he attacked Rajnikanth. And a section of the crowd threw stones at him for this. By attacking Rajnikanth, Ramarajan has already lost 10 per cent of the votes in Tiruchendur.

On the day of filing nominations Ramarajan prayed at the Tiruchendur temple and then went with his wife Nalini to a very old brahmin's house and sought his blessings. With this one act Ramarajan made sure that at least all the brahmins in Tiruchendur voted for him.

The traditional Congress voters in this constituency changed their allegiance to the TMC in the last elections. And Kumari Anandan is not the candidate who can pull the voters back -- with or without Sonia.

You cannot fool all the people all the time -- possibly this maxim was written keeping Kumari Anandan in mind. He has been an MLA from both Radhapuram and Sattankulam, which come under this Lok Sabha constituency. He has never visited his constituency after winning and has never done anything for it.

During the last election Kumari Anandan, then Tamil Nadu Congress president, stood from Nagercoil, whose voters beat him up. This time he won't be attacked, but he won't get votes either.

For all his shortcomings Kumari Anandan is a very good orator, the people believing that only Karunanidhi is better in all of Tamil Nadu.

Due to problems in the retrieval of their Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank the Nadars are very angry with M Karunanidhi. The CM had brokered an agreement between the Nadars and Essar, but when the latter went back on the promise Karunanidhi could not force them to keep their word.

A lot of Nadars want to boycott this poll. If there is a last minute call comes for a poll boycott, then Adithan will lose. For among the Dalits and Other Backward Classes he doesn't stand a chance. They'd rather vote for filmstar Ramarajan.

Adithan needs the Nadars to win. All he has to do is convince them that he'll get their bank back.

Campaign Trail

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