5-cornered fight in AIADMK stronghold
The Theni Lok Sabha seat, a predominantly agricultural constituency in Southern Tamil Nadu, is considered prestigious for the ruling AIADMK as the district has produced three Chief Ministers--MGR, present incumbent J Jayalalithaa and O Panneerselvam--besides, several Ministers who enjoyed considerable clout in the State Cabinet.
The constituency would witnessed an absorbing five-cornered contest, though sitting MP J M Haroon Rashid of Congress, who shot into fame in 2004 by defeating Ms Jayalalithaa's close aide Sasikala's once powerful relative T T V Dinakaran, says he has the edge due to the Alagiri factor.
The AIADMK, which is heavily banking on its traditional Mukkulathor community vote base and other OBC groups, has fielded local leader R Parthiban. DMK has nominated veteran Pon Muthuramalingam, while MDMK's Azhagu Sundaram and J Ramprakash of Aam Aadmi are also in the fray.
With Mr Alagiri, the expelled DMK leader and Party Chief M Karunanidhi's eldest son, indirectly blessing the Congress and MDMk candidates during a function in the district, the chances of DMK has become more vulnerable in the constituency, which has an electorate of close to 14 lakhs and Bodinayakanur, Sholavandan, Cumbum, Andipatti, Usilampatti and Periyakulam as Assembly segments.
The vexatious Mullaiperiyar dam row bordering Kerala was the main issue in the polls besides, the inordinate delay in the Bodi-Madurai broad guage line project, which was in limbo. This project will be a boon to the cardamom growers and traders as it would help them to transport their produce to other states.
Talking to UNI, Mr Rashid, seeking a third term from this constituency, sounds confident of winning. ''You will see after the results are announced. I will definitely win by a big margin,'' he said.
The first leader to call on Mr Alagiri after his expulsion from the DMK, he said it would be an easy victory for him, going by the Alagiri factor.
Besides, he was also banking on the various initiatives taken up by him, including attracting investments in the wind power sector to the tune of over Rs 10,000 crores desilting of Vaigai river at a cost of Rs 64 crores, rendering timely financial help to the people of his constituency, facilitating educational loans during the last five years.
He said he has promised to voters that if given another term, he would take steps for opening the integrated commercial complex at Sholavandan, besides setting up of cold storage facilities for the sappota, lime, grapes and green chilly growers.
He said he also promised to conduct a feasibility study for setting up of a mango pulp processing centre at Periyakulam.
Accusing the DMk and AIADMK of attempts to misguide the voters that the sitting MP has done nothing for them, he said ''my people are very innocent and I am very confident that they will make me MP again.''
With the Alagiri factor expected to dent the chances of the DMK candidate, the AIADMK nominee was banking on the support of the ruling party and its three year achievements.
(Posted on 12-04-2014)