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With former Union Minister KV Thangkabalu being nominated by Congress for this LS seat, Salem, in western Tamil Nadu has emerged as one of the key constituencies for May 10 polls.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Salem, Tamil Nadu
PUBLISHED ON APR 07, 2004 01:20 PM IST

Famous for its succulent mangoes and well-known for tapioca industries, this semi-urban constituency in western Tamil Nadu has emerged as one of the key constituencies for May 10 polls with former Union Minister KV Thangkabalu being nominated by Congress high command.

The constituency, having an electorate of over 12.5 lakh, is considered a Congress fortress. As many as six times Congress candidates have won from the seat, DMK thrice, AIADMK twice and Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress and Tamil Maanila Congress, both offshoots of Congress, one each.

Congress is now part of the DMK-led alliance and Tamil Maanila Congress and Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress have merged with the parent party, Congress.

The constituency has also elected two other former Union Ministers in the past. Former Congress man and late BJP leader Rangarajan Kumaramangalam and founder-leader of Tamizhaga Rajiv Congress, late Vazhapadi Ramamoorthy, had won from here.

Rangarajan, as a Congress candidate, had captured the seat in 1984, 1989, and in 1991. In 1996, Rangarajan unsuccessfully fought the polls from here as a Tiwari Congress representative.

'Vanniyar' (most backward) community is dominant in the constituency, constituting at least one-third of voters. Scheduled Castes and Tribes form nearly 25 per cent and other castes constitute the balance.

After several days of "wire-pulling" by different sections of Congress men, the high command recently cleared the name of Thangkabalu, former President of the state unit of Congress. He is contesting the seat for the second time, the previous time in 1996, when he was defeated by R Devadoss of the Tamil Maanila Congress.

Many in the party, specially supporters of former President EVKS Elangovan, are up in arms for having given the ticket to Thangkabalu this time. He has to survive the battle with the cadre who owe their allegiance to several leaders in the party.

Luckily for Thangkabalu, a non-Vanniyar, ruling AIADMK has fielded a newcomer, A Rajasekhar, though he is a Vanniyar. The AIADMK debutant to elections has to depend solely on the popularity of his party chief and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.

The AIADMK had refused to give the ticket to its sitting member and former state minister TM Selvaganapathy who is very powerful. He has been denied ticket as an appeal challenging his conviction in a corruption case is pending in the Supreme Court.

Selvaganapathy was a minister in 1991-96 cabinet headed by Jayalalithaa. He is a good speaker and a lawyer by profession.

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