Thursday, April 7, 2011

In Andipatti, only ‘two leaves’ matters

AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa addresses the voters during an election campaign at Andipatti. File Photo: G. Moorthy
This is one of the very few constituencies in Tamil Nadu where the credentials of the candidate do not matter at all for the voters.
What matters here is whether the candidate is from AIADMK headed by J. Jayalalithaa or if he is contesting on the MGR’s symbol ‘two leaves’ which still attracts people in southern Tamil Nadu like a magnet.
This rural constituency in southern Tamil Nadu’s Theni district is a traditional AIADMK stronghold and has sent two leaders from the party -- late matinee idol M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa -- to the state Assembly as Chief Ministers.
While MGR contested successfully from here in 1984, Ms. Jayalalithaa became an MLA from this segment in 2002 by-polls and retained the seat again in 2006. However, in the April 13 elections, Ms. Jayalalithaa is contesting from her ancestral town of Srirangam in Tiruchirapalli.
Ms. Jayalalithaa’s migration to Srirangam from here is unlikely to affect the fortunes of AIADMK nominee Thanga Tamilselvan, who hails from nearby Theni, as majority of the people in this town and villages say they will vote only for AIADMK.
Mr. Tamilselvan won the 2001 Assembly elections from here, but resigned as an MLA four months later to ensure Ms. Jayalalithaa’s entry into the state Assembly.
DMK has fielded Mukaiah, who is a relative of Mr. Tamilselvan and is hoping that this factor will help them split the votes.
Interestingly, some people here appreciate DMK’s pet schemes like the free colour television to households, free gas stoves and rice at Re 1 per kg, opining that this may prompt some beneficiaries to vote for the ruling party.
Another interesting fact is that a majority of people in this rural town are aware of the 2G spectrum scam, which the opposition has been racking up for some time now, and how it has caused loss to the national exchequer.
Shanmugam, who owns a bakery just outside the bus stand here, says right from the time of his father, his family has been voting for the AIADMK and he will continue to do so.
“The candidate does not matter here. He is contesting on behalf of the AIADMK and he has the blessings of Amma (Jayalalithaa). That is enough for us...this vote is for Jayalalithaa and the two leaves symbol,” he says.
Just yards away, Nagendran, an auto driver, echoes Shanmugam’s views and says the AIADMK chief will “ensure the development of this area which is under the control of AIADMK.”
“We vote for AIADMK because of Jayalalithaa. She has represented the constituency twice and she has done a lot of things to the area. And when she is in power, law and order is always good,” he says.
However, Mangammal, who sells flowers at the main market, says she plans to vote for the DMK this time as she got a colour television set and gas stove for free.
“Ayya (Karunanidhi) gave us many things for free. So, I want to show my gratitude by voting for him,” she said.
A local DMK functionary claimed that the DMK has made some inroads in this constituency and the election results will confirm that.
Andipatti is centrally located between Madurai and Theni and it has bus facilities and other basic facilities like hospital. During the AIADMK’s 2001-2006 regime, the Theni Medical College and Hospital was started and it is functioning well now.
Ms. Jayalalithaa, who campaigned in the town on Monday, had said that Andipatti will continue to remain her constituency despite her not seeking the mandate from her.
Durairaj, a local AIADMK functionary, said Ms. Jayalalithaa not contesting from this seat doesn’t matter to people as they have elected her twice already.
However, Congress functionary Perumal contests this claim and says AIADMK has less chances of winning this seat this time.

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