At 93, ‘son of the soil’, DMK chief M Karunanidhi harbours hopes of heading a government if his party wins the 16 May Assembly polls, perhaps the most crucial in his 50-year chequered career, but the AIADMK and CPI are leaving no stone unturned to spoil his party in the constituency.
The leader seeks votes as a “senior brother” even as his foot soldiers in this rural segment are leaving no stone unturned to ensure a successive term for their ‘Thalaivar’ (leader) in the 16 May polls.
An upbeat DMK is least bothered about the two pronged attack AIADMK and CPI have launched, saying Karunanidhi had faced the two parties’ combined strength as allies in 2011 and that he can for sure tide over.
“This time, we only expect the victory margin to go up, that is in the range of 75,000 to one lakh votes,” N Sankar, a senior DMK functionary and a former local body deputy chief said.
The DMK chief seems to be sitting comfortable here as hordes of people poured in to have a glimpse of their leader during his recent public meeting at his home constituency, that elected him as MLA in 2011 by a margin of 50,000 even as his party was then routed by arch rival AIADMK in the hustings.
“If he could have ensured such a margin in 2011, imagine the support he can ensure this time,” Sankar said claiming there was heavy anti-incumbency in Thiruvarur, as well as all over the state.
That victory in 2011 was possible despite an AIADMK candidate having the full backing of a mega coalition stitched up by its chief J Jayalalithaa, which included DMDK, CPI (M) and CPI.
“I will just vote for him. He is our son of the soil,” auto driver Seenu said even as a couple of his colleagues nodded in endorsement.
“The DMK’s poll assurance of farm loan waiver is a welcome one,” R Selvam, a farmer said.
Sankar echoed his words and said the farming community in the constituency, as well as the neighbouring ones, are “very happy” over this assurance.
However, DMK faces its own criticism, such as the Coal Bed Methane (CBM) project it brought in 2010 when it was in power in the state, but the party puts up a brave face, saying it is a not an issue that will hurt Karunanidhi’s prospects.
“See. It was given to us as a development programme and that is why we accepted it. But when people opposed, we amended ourselves as we cannot be adamant,” senior DMK leader and party Spokesperson T K S Elangovan told PTI.
Opposition parties are targeting Karunanidhi also for not raising issues related to the constituency in the Assembly even as DMK defends him saying he was not given opportunities.
The AIADMK, whose candidate A N R Panneerselvam breaks into the campaign mode early in the day, is touring every nook and corner of the constituency to ensure his party’s win.
His poll managers said that the party is banking on the AIADMK government’s five year achievements, including addressing power cuts.
Locals supported AIADMK’s claim that power cut had been addressed to a ‘large extent’.
AIADMK’s former ally CPI is also going all guns blazing, aiming to fly the red flag high.
Party nominee S Masilamani banks not only on his son of the soil tag, but also recalls the various protests he had led and participated in, including those against the CBM project.
“People voted for Karunanidhi in the last elections out of sympathy after he made the son of the soil appeal. But he has not done anything for the constituency. He has not attended the Assembly and highlighted local issues. In fact, he did not even appoint a local person to meet people on his behalf at the MLA’s office,” he told PTI.
AIADMK’s Panneerselvam is from neighbouring Nannilam Assembly constituency and was not a “very well-known” man in Thiruvarur, he said.
“As a local man, I have participated and spearheaded a number of struggles bothering people, including CBM and smuggling of sand. I am well-known in the constituency and easily accessible,” he said.
His promises include making the MLA office ‘functional’ if voted to power, besides providing a toll-free telephone number for grievance reddressal.
“I will focus on upgradation of schools and irrigation infrastructure,” he said.
The constituency has a voter base of over 2.41 lakh, with women outnumbering men.