A baby on the campaign trail

Published on Apr 06, 2004 12:02 PM IST

Wrapped in layers of clothing in his mother's arms, one month-old Rakshan Pannaiyar is the star campaigner in Tamil Nadu.

HT Image
HT Image
PTI | ByPapri Sri Raman (Indo-Asian News Service), Chennai

He has hit the headlines and adorns many a magazine cover in Tamil Nadu this week - in his mother's arms, wrapped in layers of clothing.

The star campaigner is nearly a month-old Rakshan Pannaiyar, popularly being referred to as 'Kutti Pannaiyar', meaning the protector and his father's son.

His father Venkatesh Pannaiyar, a local don, was shot dead in the middle of the night in his apartment last winter in the heart of the city by Chennai police.

Belonging to the powerful Nadar community, Pannaiyar's killing had deep political repercussions.

The DMK, the major opponent to the ruling AIADMK, gave Pannaiyar's wife Radhika Selvi the Tiruchendur Lok Sabha constituency to contest from in the general election in May.

Women voters of the constituency strongly disapprove of the manner in which Selvi's husband was killed in an 'encounter', a euphemism for a fight stage-managed by police.

Selvi is among the few women candidates to be contesting a parliament seat from Tamil Nadu this summer.

On March 10, in a private hospital in Chennai, Pannaiyar's son was born. His mother hit the campaign trail within three weeks after the birth.

So it is that Rakshan, who has now become a crowd-puller in the Tiruchendur constituency, where 60 per cent of the electorate comprise the Nadar community and 25 per cent are scheduled castes, whose sympathies too seem to lie with Selvi.

The communities in the region, about 800 km south of Chennai, make their living by toddy-tapping and this is something Chief Minister J Jayalalitha's Government in Chennai frowns upon.

The ruling AIADMK candidate Damodaran, a newcomer to electoral politics, now has an uphill task of trying to woo a constituency looking up to "Kutti Pannaiyar".

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