PTI | ByPress Trust of India, Tirunelveli
May 02, 2004 05:34 PM IST

Since 1952, AIADMK had captured this seat at least on six occasions, the Congress thrice, DMK twice and CPI-M and Swatantra party once each.

After a gap of 35 years, the Congress is all set to take on the ruling AIADMK in this constituency, in southern Tamil Nadu, considered always a citadel of the ruling AIADMK, though the opposition DMK has won this seat atleast on two occasions in the past.

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HT Image

Since 1952, AIADMK had captured this seat at least on six occasions, the Congress thrice, DMK twice and CPI-M and Swatantra party once each.

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Congress held the seat from 1962 to 1967. Afterwards it was the AIADMK which was sent to the Lok Sabha. Right from 1977 when AIADMK registered its first victory, Tirunelveli has remained a safe seat of the party.

This time around, people are sour over AIADMK's denial of ticket to PH Pandian, a member of the dissolved Lok Sabha. Padian, a former speaker of the state assembly, hails from Chermadevi assembly segment falling in nearby Tiruchendur Lok Sabha constituency.

The party has fielded a low profile 37-year-old R Amirtha Ganesan who is Tuticorin town Secretary. The faction-ridden Congress has fielded former union minister R Dhanushkodi Adithyan, who was a member of Parliament for 14 years from the neighbouring Tiruchendur constituency.

Right from the day of notification, several Congressmen were camping in the national capital with an eye on the seat. The party traders' wing President and popular businessman H Vasantha Kumar, brother of former TNCC President Kumari Ananthan, was one of them.

After a lot of delay, the Congress high command chose Dhanushkodi Adithyan who has to swim against the tide. Vasantha Kumar, who filed his nominations, withdrew it on high command's advice on the last day of withdrawal of nominations.

Communal affinity plays a major role in this constituency where Nadars and Dalits constitute nearly 40 per cent of the total electorate of nearly 12 lakhs. Pillais, Thevars and Muslims are also in significant number in this constituency.

In 1998, Adithyan lost to Tamil film star R Ramarajan of the AIADMK, who held the post only for one year. In 1999, PH Pandian won the seat. In 1998, another Tamil hero Sarath Kumar, who is now a Rajya Sabha member, unsuccessfully contested from here as a DMK nominee.

Poor performance by Adithyan is a handicap for him besides factionalism within his party. Adithyan's brother, RP Adithyan, a former AIADMK legislator from Chermadevi, is up in arms against his brother.

RP Adithyan has on record stated that there were several cases pending against his brother, including the land grab case and illegal felling of trees in nearby Kalakkad forest area. He is sure that his brother on Congress candidate will face defeat.

To make matters worse for Adithyan, another former Congressman and now a legislator, Appavu, is also in the field as a candidate of People's Alliance formed by Dalit Panthers of India and Makkal Tamil Desam. He is likely to cut into Adithyan's votes.

A PTI correspondent toured Tirunelveli, Palayamkottai, Srivaikundam and Tuticorin assembly segments falling in this constituency where the people of different strata of society lamented that the rivalry within the Congress party was working against the Congress nominee.

Booklets were circulated by rivals of Adithyan, containing corruption charges against him and his wife.

On the other hand, AIADMK candidate is banking on the performance of party supremo Jayalalithaa in the past three years.

Anti-incumbancy is one of the factors that will support the DMK-led, Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA), of which the Congress is a partner.

The constituency has not seen any large investments though Tuticorin and its surrounding areas have vast stretch of barren lands which could house many industrial establishments. The coastal areas like Vembar continue to suffer ever for drinking water, which is an issue for the opposition parties.

Tirunelveli, Palayamkottai, Vilathikulam, Ottapidaram, Srivaikuntam and Tuticorin six assembly segments form this consitutency.

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