Srirangam, the abode of the famous Vaishnavite temple of Sri Ranganathaswamy on the banks of river Cauvery in Tiruchirapalli, may be set to score another feat by electing its 'daughter' and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief J Jayalalithaa to the Tamil Nadu assembly as she tests her electoral fortunes for the first time from an urban seat.
The Srirangam assembly seat, a traditional stronghold of the AIADMK that has elected the party nominees six times since 1977, is witnessing an interesting contest between Jayalalithaa, a two-time chief minister, and a political novice N Anand, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam nominee.
Except in 1989 and 1996, when there was a huge anti-AIADMK wave in the state, the party has captured this seat with huge margins and its candidate in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls emerged victorious as he had a difference of 21,000 in this seat alone over his Congress rival Sarubala Thondaiman.
Jayalalithaa's forefathers were born in this island, which is bounded by the Cauvery on the one side and its tributary Kollidam on the other, and the AIADMK chief sought to strike a chord with the people by calling her chosing and contesting from Srirangam as a homecoming.
"It is like a homecoming for me. This is where my ancestors hailed from. Now I have come back to be one among you," she said last week after launching her campaign from here, sending the crowd to raptures.
Jayalalithaa shifted to Srirangam from Andipatti, another traditional rural stronghold of the party that also sent her political mentor M G Ramachandran to the assembly, where she won two times -- 2002 and 2006. This is the first time she is contesting from an urban seat.
The mood is jubilant in this 2.20 lakh-strong electorate constituency, dominated in equal measures by Brahmin, backward Muthiraiyar and Adidravidar (SC) communities, as the Opposition coalition's chief ministerial candidate and a 'native' of this town is contesting.
"I will vote for her (Jayalalithaa) only. I have been voting only for AIADMK for a very long time. But, this time it is very special... She herself is contesting and she will win for sure," Gururajan, manager of the Sri Swarnawarna Theerther Brindavanam Mutt at the South Chitra Street that oversees the 'gopuram' (tower) of the Temple, told PTI.
Majority of people in the four streets surrounded by the famous temple, where Jayalalithaa herself is a frequent visitor, echo Gururajan's sentiments, saying "making her win from here will help create history".
Though there are several issues that are to be sorted out in this constituency, Jayalalithaa seeking a mandate from here has overshadowed every other matter. People who live on temple and mutt property want pattas for their land.
Vasudevan, who had worked with automobile major TVS in Chennai for several years, says people believe Jayalalithaa will do good for her community
"She will win as she belongs to this place. Second thing is this temple generates a lot of revenue. But nothing is being spent for the development of the town. If she comes, we believe she will look into these issues," Vasudevan said.
Sunderraj, a tourist guide for the past 25 years, has a different view. He will vote only for Anand not because he is a youngster but for the fact that he belongs to the DMK.
"I am a traditional DMK supporter. I will continue to vote for the party whoever contests from the Opposition party. My family is DMK family," he said, but predicted that Jayalalithaa will emerge victorious.
Trichy MP P Kumar, who is spearheading the party's campaign here, says they are working "only to make sure that the DMK's nominee looses his deposit".
Talking to PTI, he said, "The victory of Amma (Jayalalithaa) from Srirangam is sure. We are working to make sure that the DMK candidate looses his deposit amount. The margin matters... We want our Amma to win from this seat with a difference of around 60,000 votes."
Kumar and other party leaders go on a door-to-door campaign everyday seeking people's votes for their leader.
"The response is tremendous... People are jubilant," he said.
However, Anand feels the policies and schemes of the DMK government will come in handy for him in the elections. He feels campaigning by Deputy Chief Minister Stalin on Sunday will help turn the tables in his favour.
The DMK camp says only the Brahmin votes are sure for the AIADMK and the dominant Muthirayar community members will prefer Anand as he belongs to their caste.
They conceded that it is very difficult for them to get votes in Srirangam and that they are concentrating on other areas in the segment. While Brahmins constitute over 30,000 votes in the constituency, Muthuriyars over 55,000 and Adidarvidar another 60,000.
60-year-old housewife Rajam, who lives in the South Chitra Street, says people in and around Srirangam have been voting for AIADMK and they will continue to do this time too.
"The icing on the cake this time is Jayalalithaa herself is contesting... She will win... I will vote for her," she said as she walked into the main temple.
Muthiraiyars and Adi Dravidas also may back Jayalalithaa in large numbers as they feel electing her would bring 'star status' to the constituency.
"Only Amma, no one... The only difference is earlier we were voting for her party candidates now we will vote for her directly," Senthil Kumar, a mason and resident of Ambedkar Nagar in the town, said.
Palanisamy, a rickshaw puller who ferries aged priests from their home to the temple, is also elated over Jayalalithaa contesting from here. "Not only Brahmins, other community people will also vote," he said.
Gopal, an AIADMK functionary, says many Brahmins have asked many of their relatives, who are settled outside Srirangam, to be here on April 13 to exercise their franchise.