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Amma's seed for bumper harvest

Ever since Jaya was elected in a by-polls, she has showered Andipatty with projects, reports GC Shekhar.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 23:06 IST
GC Shekhar

Wide ribbons of smooth asphalt snaking through Andipatty would put most of the country’s national highways to shame.

Even the most remote village is a pleasing drive. And in distant G Uslimapatti (many villages this side sport initials), a handful of women is busy collecting drinking water from a village tap. Three years ago, they had to trek to a well 2 km away.

The villagers credit the transformation to “Amma”. Ever since Jayalalithaa was elected in a by-election in February 2002, she has showered Andipatty with projects, including a spanking new General Hospital.

“Not only us, even people from nearby towns outside this constituency need not go to Madurai for treatment. Everything is available here,” says R Murugan, a young shopkeeper.

Though odd pockets sport DMK flags and symbols — most of Andipatty swears by Amma. In 2002, she won by a huge margin of 33,000 votes and the local AIADMK men want to improve on the tally.

“We have no doubt that she will win by the highest margin in the state because no one else has done so much for their constituency. Moreover, we will be electing a chief minister and not another MLA,” explains Sellathambi in Andipatty town.

But the DMK has its arsenal loaded. It is countering the line of campaign saying Jayalalithaa will cease to be the chief minister after May 8 and it would make sense to elect their candidate Seeman as “the choice is between an ex-chief minister and a prospective minister.”

With Seeman, a wealthy tutorial college owner from Chennai, claiming to have many relatives in the Varu sanaadu area and hoping to cut into AIADMK’s traditional Thevar votes, the DMK hopes to claim moral victory if it can keep Jayalalithaa’s winning margin below 10,000.

Though Karunanidhi urged his boys to spring a surprise on Jayalalithaa like in 1996 (when she lost her seat in Bargur to a novice) during his brief halt at Andipatty, the DMK is up against a bunch of voters keen to repay their gratitude for all that Amma has done. Like Krishnaveni Ammal, an 82-year-old Dalit woman and a former Congress MLA from the seat in 1962.

After a Tamil daily reported how she was living in penury in of a ramshackle cowshed, Jayalalithaa immediately gave her a solatium of Rs 5 lakhs (which went into a FD) and a rent free government flat for life.

In spite of her age, indifferent health and decades-long loyalty to the Congress, Krishnaveni Ammal is preparing to campaign for Jayalalithaa in Andipatty. “Where were all the Congressmen when I was on the streets?” she asked, waiting for the Tata Sumo to take her on the campaign rounds.