The town, about 50 km from Chennai, is worldwide known as the place where Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated nearly 20 years ago. It has been a Congress bastion during the last three elections, leading to the victory of its candidate Yasodha D. However, this time around, the party’s citadel is not too secure, with AIADMK nominee Molachur R Perumal making deep inroads. The significance of the election here is that it has a very strong connection with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, whose husband died while campaigning in May 1991.
The Congress, it appears, has itself to blame. Local residents who have backed the party in this assembly segment complain that Yasodha has done nothing for them. She has not been able to even persuade the DMK-led government to keep its promise of giving a job to at least one member of the family whose land was acquired by State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu.
The bigger point is that none of the top leaders of any party has come to campaign in the constituency, where a huge national flag beckons you to visit the Rajiv Gandhi memorial. Even AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, with whose party the Congress had an alliance when Rajiv Gandhi attained martyrdom, has preferred to keep away. She came up to Kanchipuram, 30 km from the area, but did not visit Sriperumbudur. “Amma had great respect for Rajivji and it may be because of that that she has not come here, despite knowing fully well her nominee stands a good chance,” said Murugan, a political activist of the town.
Yashoda continues to be optimistic. She told HT the alliance (with the DMK) was doing well and she hoped to get elected for the fourth time. She has been supported twice by the AIADMK and twice by the DMK in the past. “There is no reason we should not be successful again,” she said.
SK Dharampal, an AIADMK supporter, felt price rise and poor law and order would fell the Congress-DMK alliance this time. He claimed Yasodha was so unpopular that she was not allowed to enter three villages — Pillaipakkam, Mannurvilly and Namelli. One of his colleagues said the constituency, with 223,000 voters, was looking for a change.
While supporters of both the sides are preparing for last-minute campaigning, hundreds of visitors continue to pour in at the Rajiv Gandhi memorial. His famous words, inscribed on the wall inside, are still ringing in everyone’s ears, “India is an old country but a young nation … I am young and I too have a dream of an India — strong, independent, self-reliant and in the front rank of nations of the world, in the service of mankind.”