Sivaganga, Apr 16 UNI | 3 months ago

A confident Karti Chidamabaram, son of Union Minister P Chidambaram, compares himself to a cricketer who wishes to score a century in his debut in the electoral arena as Congress candidate from Sivaganga.

"Like any other cricketer who wishes to open the innings with a century, I will also try to hit a century", Karti said about his candidature.

He was nominated by the Congress as candidate after the senior Chidambaram, sitting Member, opted out from electoral politics.

Educated in Texas and Cambridge Universities, Karti may be a first timer as candidate, but he knows campaigning inside-out as he has been electioneering for his father for the past 18 years.

The senior Chidambaram had won the seat for a record seven terms, including by huge margins on six occasions.

Only in 2009 had he won by a low margin of 3,354 votes in this rural constituency, nestled in the 'Heartland of Chettinad" and considered a Congress stronghold.

Karti is pitted against P R Senthilnathan of AIADMK, H Raja of BJP (who has the backing of DMDK led by actor-politician Vijayakanth, MDMK of Vaiko and PMK of Dr Ramadoss), S P Durairaj (DMK) and S Krishnan (CPI).

Unfazed by the fact that an isolated Congress had been forced to plough a lone furrow in this election, Karti, who is also an AICC member, puts up a brave face, when UNI met him at his farm house in Managiri village in far-flung Karaikudi.

Sharing his thoughts about his electoral debut in a five-cornered contest as he sets out for campaigning, Karti, clad in white dhoti and a shirt, said "elections is not a new experience for me. I have been involved in all elections since 1996 managing campaigns.

"Yes, I am a candidate for the first time that is the only change. It is a continuation of the last 18 years what I have done for the elections. The response is very good, especially from women and the youth," he added.

Karti said Congress has a very good track record in Sivaganga, winning the last seven successive elections.

"There is a good track record for us here as we have taken a lot of developmental works both through the private sector and through the government. I have brought a different proposition here that I don't belong to any caste as most candidates rely on caste tag. Therefore, it is all working in my favour," he said.

He would also be banking on the achievements of UPA government which included, student educational loan programme, MNREGA, farm loan waiver, schemes towards women empowerment, among others.

Karti, who has been campaigning along with his father canvassing votes and addressing election meetings, disagreed with the view that the prospects of Congress, which had allied with the DMK in the last two Lok Sabha polls, would be hit. He said the party should continue to go it alone without aligning with any Dravidian formations.

"This is not new to us. In fact the Congress party had contested alone in 1989 and in 1998 elections. We should continue to contest alone without aligning with major Dravidian formations in the elections to know our strength, " he added.

Highlighting the shortcomings of the ruling AIADMK, especially the power situation, would be his major poll plank, Karti said.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had said she would rectify the power situation within three months after her party came to power in 2011.

However, three years down the line, the power situation has become worse. "Especially during exams, the power cuts affect the students. It is eight to ten hours a day especially in villages," he said. The AIADMK will surely feel the heat on this issue, he added.

There were widespread allegations that though Mr Chidambaram handled major portfolios, including Commerce, Finance and Home in Congress-led UPA 1 and UPA 2 regimes at the centre, the basic problems like unemployment due to lack of major industries, infrastructure development and water scarcity still hounds the people of the constituency.

It was also alleged that Mr Chidambaram has brought the branches and ATMs of all Banks to his home turf, but nothing that apart was done by him as a Union Minister

But Karti refused to buy this theory and said "the track record of the Congress in Sivaganga was very good."

He dismissed as inconsequential the presence of senior BJP leader H Raja in the fray, who had polled more than two lakh votes in the last elections and the Modi wave projected by the BJP.

Poll observers predicted that the winning margin would be narrower as there would be a tough battle between the AIADMK, Congress, BJP and the CPI. The DMK which is also in fray was expected to be hit by the Azhagiri factor, which was likely to weaken his chances.

A majority of people of this constituency depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Severe drought during the last two seasons severely affected the farmers and agricultural labourers. "I don't see any whiff of Modi wave in Tamil Nadu", he hastened to add.

Sivaganga, Karaikudi, Tirupattur, Manamadurai (Reserved), Thirumayam and Alangudi Assembly segments constitute the Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency with Thirumayam and Alangudi located in the neighbouring Pudukottai district.

(Posted on 16-04-2014)