Anti-nuclear activist SP Udaykumar, who ran rings around the nuclear scientific community when it came to using media efficiently to paint nuclear plant at Kudankulam as the villain till chief minister Jayalalithaa cracked down, is attempting to enter Tamil Nadu assembly from Radhapuram constituency in south Tamil Nadu’s Tirunveli district.
An American returned academician and anti-nuclear activist, this 58 year old independent candidate has only 400 criminal cases slapped on him, on various counts, for the agitation he spearheaded and brought the work on Kudankulam Nuclear power plant to a complete halt for nearly two years.
He had successfully mobilized the fishing villages in and around the plant site in Tiruneveli district as also from the nearby coastal districts, putting the fear of life into the people living in the vicinity. When it came to using media, the inarticulate scientific community, belonging to the public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India, were no match, as Uday Kumar easily cornered them as demons. Fisher folk in the villages were only too happy to rally around Uday Kumar who had the church backing him too. Since Kudankulam is very much part of the Radhapuram constituency, a cluster of some 200 villages, most of which participated in Uday Kumar’s struggle, he is already a local hero, “one of us” as the villagers describe him.
“I am a very serious contender and the results will show,” Udaykumar told Hindustan Times over phone from his campaign in Kudankulam on Thursday.
He is up against the two Dravidian majors, M Aeppu a three time MLA of DMK from the same constituency and IS Inba Durai, AIADMK, both from the powerful Nadar community that dominates this region.
Udaykumar realizes the uneven battle he has waged, when in terms of money, organization and backing, “I am far behind. But people here know me and they are watching the ugly and vulgar display of money by both DMK and AIADMK and are extremely upset over this.”
“Our campaign at Radhapuram constituency is going very well even though the big corrupt parties are pumping money like anything. We need many small donations to keep our struggle going. Please send whatever help you can give to the following special election account,” Udaykumar appealed to his supporters, mostly youth, on his Facebook page.
Admitting that the Kudankulam had come up despite a huge struggle waged by him, with the support of the local villagers, Udaykumar said that there are several issues that agitate the minds of the people. Kudankulam unit one is still plagued with problems and the second one is not commissioned yet, even after three year have elapsed. “It is a failed project,” he declares and never tires of kicking up this issue and remind the people.
“For unit one and unit two the price of Kudankulam nuclear plant was Rs 16000 crore apiece. But for the third and fourth unit, the price escalation makes them Rs 45,000 crore each,” Udaykumar alleged citing an RTI reply. How can the price escalation be so much, he questioned, only hinting at possible corruption.
Corruption is also a very big issue and will play out in the elections. And in this both AIADMK and DMK are no different to one another, he said.
But there are other issues, purely local ones of the constituency which hold true for most of Tamil Nadu too, he said citing unemployment, poor quality education, price rise, pathetic infrastructure, rapidly declining agriculture and the like.
“We promise to set these things right,” Udaykumar said adding “people are fed up of both AIADMK and DMK and are looking for an alternative.” Here in Radhapuram I am the alternative and the people already have endorsed me,” a confident sounding Udaykumar said.