The hall-cum-foyer where former telecom minister A Raja used to grant audience to people in Perambulur today serves as headquarters for the campaign of M Prabhakaran, an Indian Oil gas dealer and newcomer candidate for the DMK.
The functional table and chair in one corner of the hall-cum-foyer of the three-storeyed tastefully done house served as his durbar every 14 days until Raja was jailed in early February in connection with the 2G spectrum scam. His exalted chair is still wiped clean every day.
DMK district secretary (Perambulur) P Duraiswamy was among the dejected lot when Prabhakaran was fielded. Duraiswamy had met Raja in jail in Delhi to seek his blessings for his nomination from Perambulur, the latter's hometown. "But when the list came, we were shocked. Now we have no option but to work for Prabhakaran's victory," he said.
Raja's close aides such as S Jayaprakash, a youthful party leader, are monitoring and mounting the campaign for the person blessed by Raja for the Perambulur assembly constituency, 300 km south of Chennai. In Kunnam in Perambulur district, another Raja aide SS Sivasankar has got the party nod.
Jayaprakash thinks nothing of the heartburn among local DMK leaders over fielding Prabhakaran.
"Some people were disappointed, but after the name came to us, our job is to ensure his victory. For us, anyone Raja wants is a person to work for," he says. Supremely confident of Prabhakaran's victory, he says "spectrum is not an issue at all. Ask anyone here, they will tell you the work Raja has done".
A shopkeeper across the road tended to agree that the spectrum scam was not much of a factor but said it was not something that people could forget easily. But Raja has done so much for the area that people would find it difficult to think of anyone else, he says.
N Karruppuswamy, a farmer, is sad that the man who supposedly breathed life into the region is behind bars. "He is innocent and is in jail only because of technicalities. He will be back," he said when Hindustan Times caught up with him.