TN: Not a cakewalk for Thirunavukarasu this year
Locals and Thirunavukarasu's supporters claim the former minister has a personal vote bank of around 40,000 votes.
Aranthangi: He has been the darling of the masses and commands considerable respect, but former BJP Union minister S Thirunavukarasu may have to walk the extra mile this time to enter the Tamil Nadu Assembly for the seventh term from his traditional stronghold, this time on a Congress ticket.
People in this rural constituency in Pudukottai district near Trichyrapalli in central part of the state still remember Thirunavukarasu's "good work and good nature" but they do express disappointment over his frequent changing of parties.
The blue-eyed boy of late Tamil Nadu chief minister M G Ramachandran, Thirunavukarasu first contested from this seat in 1977 when the AIADMK ventured into electoral politics and had won all the successive elections four times as AIADMK candidate and once as an Independent.
He fell out with AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa in 1990s and then launched his own outfit MGRADMK only to merge it with the parent party in 1995. After the 1996 elections, he again fell out with Jayalalithaa and relaunched his outfit. In 1999, he got elected to Lok Sabha from Pudukottai seat with the support of DMK and BJP.
A couple of years later, he merged his outfit with BJP and unsuccessfully contested the Ramanathapuram seat in May, 2009. Three months later, he joined the Congress which has now fielded him in his pocket borough.
People are divided on their opinion on Thirunavukarasu, who has nurtured the constituency for almost three decades, with a section of them not happy his "frequent change of loyalties" and another strongly backing him "just because he is people-friendly and he is a nice person".
Locals and Thirunavukarasu's supporters claim the former minister has a "personal vote bank" of around 40,000 votes and if the DMK-Congress combine supporters vote for him his victory is certain.
A local Congress functionary, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Thirunavukarasu's vote bank has seen a dramatic decrease in the past few years. However, the former Union minister of state for telecommunications and information technology in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government says he changed parties "just to fulfill the needs" of the people.
"I joined BJP thinking that I will be able to do good to the people of my area. But Christians and Muslims did not like me joining BJP. I also realised that the party is not being related to in the state. So, now to do good to the people, I have joined Congress," the 63-year-old leader told PTI in the middle of his campaigning.
He also expressed confidence that he will enter the Tamil Nadu Assembly for the seventh time "with a record margin of 40,000 votes". AIADMK candidate M Rajanayagam, who is in his late 30s, says he is confident of defeating Thirunavukarasu as "he has lost the confidence of the people" by migrating to one party from another.
"My victory was decided when I was announced by Amma (Jayalalithaa) as a candidate," he said.
Though Thirunavukarasu belongs to the dominant Mukkulathor, all the votes of the community are unlikely to be cast in his favour as Rajanayagam is also from the same caste. And, moreover, locals in Melapatti village, just outside the Aranthangi town, says around 25-30 panchayats which were Thirunavukarsu's strongholds have been now merged with Alangudi constituency.
However, they said the almost the entire village will vote for Thirunavukarasu as "he is a nice person". Things which could work in favour of Thirunavukarasu is the Muslim vote bank, which he lost after he went to BJP and his popularity among the public. His supporters claim a majority of the minority votes will come to their camp which will ensure their victory.
Murugesan, who owns a soda shop outside the bus stand here, says he has been voting for Thirunavukarasu and will continue to vote for him whichever party he represented. However, Vasanthi, a housewife, disagrees with him and says she wants to vote for AIADMK as "there is a widespread opinion" that Jayalalithaa will come to power this time.
"She is going to come to power. And she is giving mixer grinder also... So, I will vote for her," she says.
Yards away, stands Sivarajan in the hot sun selling apples and grapes. He has been voting for Thirunavukarasu, but says now he has decided not to vote for him. "He has been changing parties frequently... He should not have done that," he said.
Murgaiyan, DMK local secretary in Melapatti, says the party has tried "defeating Thirunavukarasu when he was contesting as AIADMK candidate many times but they could not".
"He is likely to win. His personal vote bank is also there and the DMK-Congress alliance votes will ensure his victory," he says.
The former minister still commands respect among the people for his "kind heartedness and the way he behaves with people".
Shanmugam, a Dalit, says he will always vote for Thirunavukarasu because, when "we went as a group to ask donation to build a temple, he immediately gave the money and even came for its inauguration. He is a nice gentleman."
However, there are staunch AIADMK supporters too in this constituency. Zakir Hussain, who sells belts and leather products, says he has been a fan of MGR and will vote only for "two leaves".
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