'If Chidambaram comes here, his candidate will lose'
A Ganesh Nadar visits Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's Sivaganga constituency in poll bound Tamil Nadu, and tries to gauge its multi-layered political atmosphere.
In Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's parliamentary constituency Sivaganga, 60 kilometers north-east of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, an autorickshaw came with loud speakers blazing, "The honourable home minister is coming to seek your votes for our Congress candidate."
A pilot car arrived followed by a van loaded with policemen. Then came P Chidambaram with Rajasekhar, the Congress candidate, perched on top of his vehicle.
While Rajasekhar was waving out to the voters, P Chidambaram was talking on his mobile phone with a frown on his forehead. He continued talking for a long time as the convoy continued.
A passer by screamed, "How come he is allowed so many cars? Candidates are allowed only two vehicles with them. Looks like you can do anything as long as you are from the ruling party."
A nearby photocopy shop owner said, "Why is he coming here? He will loose votes for the candidate if he comes here. Chidambaram actually lost the parliamentary elections here. Don't know how he finally won. He doesn't have any mass support here. He is the Union home minister, a big man no doubt, but his campaigning here won't help his party."
A man having tea at an adjacent shop differed, "I will vote for the Congress, the candidate is very good and our MP is the home minister of the country."
The teashop owner and his wife were also happy with Chidambaram. "He is a good man, we will vote for his candidate."
A petty shop owner said that he was not interested in politics but would vote for the Congress candidate as he voted for the DMK as a matter of habit.
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Image: P Chidambaram campaigns in Sivaganga with Congress candidate Rajasekhar
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
'Despite being a Union minister, he did nothing for Sivaganga'
Muthu runs a chair renting shop in Sivanganga. He felt that as a Union minister, Chidambaram could have done so much for this constituency, but he had not done anything.
"There is no industry here. He has been a minister in the Centre for twenty years but hasn't done anything worthwhile here. The local candidate will have to get votes by himself and he will," Muthu said.
"In the last elections he (Rajasekhar) stood as an Independent because he did not get the party ticket and yet managed to get 35,000 votes. Now he has the party symbol and also the DMK backing so he will get more votes," He adds.
Speaking about the candidate from the opposition, he said that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had given the seat to S Gunasekaran of the Communist Party of India, and he too had a very good chance.
"People want change, they are tired of the power cuts. They want someone who will bring industries here, which means work," Muthu said.
"Inflation will also affect the vote share of the ruling party. People are fed up with the price rise. Only the intellectuals know about the details of the 2G spectrum scam. So it will make an impact in the urban areas. Villagers know there is some scam, but they don't know enough about it to make it affect their voting habits," Muthu continued.
He said that money power won't play a big part in this election as the Election Commission was very strict. He felt that even if the political parties gave money it would not influence the urban voter.
"They will know that it's their own money that they are getting back. But in rural areas, people vote for the candidate who gives them money, as they feel it's wrong to accept money and then not vote. This advantage would also go if both candidates distributed money," Muthu said.
Image: Congress workers on motorbikes in Chidambaram's campaign convoy
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar
'I will vote for the lesser of the two evils'
Kumar, a DMK supporter, said that only the power cuts would go against the ruling party and nothing else. "People are not bothered about corruption. The DMK government has done a lot for the state, and they would win," he said.
Kannan has a three-wheel cycle cart which he uses for delivering goods. He laughed when we asked him about his vote.
"Both the sides are corrupt. Everyone is going to earn for himself. I will vote for the lesser of the two evils, haven't decided which one is that yet," he said with a chuckle.
Chidambaram did not figure in the factors that influence his vote.
Karaikudi is a flourishing town in Sivaganga district. It's about 40 kms from the district headquarters. The road from Sivaganga to Karaikudi is in bad shape. Most of it is broken with potholes at many places.
Pandian is a local office bearer of the AIDMK in Karaikudi. He says, "Chidambaram doesn't have any personal influence here. Last elections none knows how he won. The Congress doesn't have any strength in the field. Our contest is with the DMK. The Congress can ride piggy back on them. They can't win on their own."
He added that in the last elections, the candidate of superstar Vijaykanth's DMDK got16,000 votes which would now come handy to AIADMK.
"The Left parties had a sizable vote share here. Their ally the Puthiya Tamilagam also had some votes here. Thus they have a good chance of winning," Pandian said.
The AIDMK was distributing notices that had the prices of essential commodities during their rule and the comparative prices during DMK rule. They were also distributing booklets that explained the 2G spectrum scam.
P Chidambaram's MP office in Karaikudi was buzzing with activity. A Congress local leader Mariappan said, "Chidambaram has a big vote share in this area. He belongs to this constituency. He is the local MP. How can people say that he has no influence here? He is the most influential politician in this area. His son Karthi is always available to the voters here."
A voter outside the Congress office said, "Chidambaram is very influential. All the Congress candidates in this district have been chosen by him. Now he will make sure that that they win."
The MP's office was very busy as the Congress youth icon, party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, was scheduled to campaign for the Congress-DMK alliance in Sivaganga.
This it self showed how important Chidambaram was, at least to the Congress cadre. They were very charged up and full of enthusiasm as they ran about with their arrangements to receive Rahul Gandhi.
Image: Congress supporters in Chidambaram's campaign convoy
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar