Mani Shankar plays Cauvery crusader
An angilicised Tamil accent does not prevent Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar from enjoying a positive chemistry with the people of this agrarian constituency.
His promise of converting this Cauvery-dependent area into another Dubai during his first term as an MP (1991-96) stuttered to a halt following farmers' resistance to the setting up of shrimp and prawn farms which had polluted the groundwater. But he regained their trust by taking up the cudgels on the Cauvery issue, writing and fighting for Tamil Nadu's share of the river water.
"Vajpayee is Aryavarta's PM, so he has no concern for your Cauvery troubles. Replace Vajpayee with Sonia Gandhi and later Jayalalithaa with Karunanidhi. The synergy of these two leaders will bring you the Cauvery waters," he exhorts a cheering crowd of about a hundred people at Mangainallur village.
Asked if he is not overdoing the Cauvery bit by harping on the denial of the river's waters at every stop, the former diplomat says: "Why not? This is the lifeline of this region. Having asked 750 questions on Cauvery in Parliament I owe it to my voters to inform them what I've done on the issue."
And the people of Mayiladuthurai trust his persistence in fighting for their cause. "It is up to Karnataka to release the water, no matter which authority directs them," says Pazhanivel, a farmer in Sirkazhi. "But at least Aiyar will keep fighting our case whoever comes to power in Delhi or Chennai."
It is this inviolable trust that has a confident Aiyar predicting that he will beat AIADMK's O.S. Manian.