Don?s wife seeks justice
Radhika Selvi, the widow of dreaded don Venkatesa Panaiyar, who was killed in an encounter with the Chennai police, has been propped up by the DMK-led alliance to showcase what it calls the 'police raj' of CM Jayalalithaa.
With a month-old baby in her arms, a slain don's wife is seeking justice through the ballot.
Radhika Selvi is the widow of dreaded Venkatesa Panaiyar, who was killed in an encounter with the Chennai police. Radhika was propped up by the DMK-led alliance to showcase what it calls the 'police raj' of CM Jayalalitha.
A housewife until her husband's killing stirred the powerful Nadar community in Tamil Nadu's southern districts, Radhika does not say much against Jayalalitha except that people must help her win for the sake of justice.
Her house, set amid paddy fields, was out of bounds for locals when Panniyar was alive. Today, it is plastered with pictures of Nadar icon late K. Kamaraj, former TN Chief Minister and AICC chief during Jawaharlal Nehru's era.
For Jayalalitha, winning Tiruchendur seat is important to show that the wealthy but socially backward Nadars are still with the ADMK. The constituency is widespread, covering Kanyakumari, parts of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts.
Women outnumber men here and their sympathy could be for the widow and her child. The Nadars number 55 per cent but half them are Christians, who have been upset with Jayalalitha over the anti-conversion law.
Even among the Hindu Nadars, many are upset over the killing of Panniyar. A majority of the seven per cent Muslim voters could go to Radhika too. But the Dalit vote is split.
Paradoxically, Panniyar was an ADMK man who played an important role in Jayalalitha's party, winning a key by-election in Sathankulam.
"My husband was a good man who had no enemies," Radhika says. Locals say the don had a Robin Hood image but was notorious for settling land and property disputes through use of muscle power for a price.
Meanwhile, Jayalalitha has put up ADMK functionary T. Damodaran, who dismisses the talk of any sympathy for the don's wife.
Interestingly, the seat was held by former Union minister Dhanuskodi Adityan who has shifted to Tirunelveli as a Congress nominee.