Undeterred by 2G Scam Charges, A Raja Treks to Nilgiris Only to Find New Supporters in 'Upset' AIADMK Loyals
File photo of former telecom minister A Raja. (Image: Reuters)
Raja is getting a huge response among the tribal voters of the constituency. He seems to have got support from leaders of four major tribes — Badaga, Thoda, Kota and Kurumba.
Udhagamandalam: It is unusually hot in the plains on both the sides of Nilgiris mountain range bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Thousands of people are climbing the 6,500 feet steep mountain to escape from the oppressive summer heat and breathe fresh, cool air in the Nilgiris. A cool breeze is sweeping across Ooty, Wellington and Coonor, the British built hill stations in the Nilgiris.
The Nilgiris Lok Sabha constituency covering the majestic, sky reaching blue mountains is also witnessing new political wave. A strong wave in favour of former telecom minister A Raja is sweeping the hills. The infamous 2G scam is behind him and the DMK candidate A Raja looks formidable in the Nilgiris once again.
Raja, who lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Nilgiris because of 2G Scam is making a comeback in style, admit even his rivals in the coffee and tea growing hills. Raja, a close confidante of late Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi is an "outsider" to the mountainous parliamentary seat. He is from Perambalur in the Tamil Nadu plains and has won thrice on DMK ticket from there.
After Nilgiris became a seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes (SCs) post delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies, Raja shifted to Nilgiris and won from here in 2009. He lost to AIADMK's C Gopalakrishnan in 2014.
The AIADMK has fielded M Thiyagarajan against A Raja in the Nilgiris this time. Even though there are a few others in the fray, the main fight is between Raja and AIADMK candidate, all agree.
Raja with his fellow party men is climbing up and down the Nilgiris seeking votes. Speaking to News18, he said that he was going to win big this time. "On May 23, the voters of India will throw BJP out. People are tired of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's autocratic rule with no progress. Economy is in deep crisis. Wherever I go people complain that demonetization has hurt the poor the most. Traders are also unhappy with the execution of GST. The communal atmosphere in India is sickening" he said.
He also attacked the AIADMK led by Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam for joining hands with the BJP which he called anti-Tamil people party under Modi.
Raghu, an auto driver in Ooty told News18 that he was an AIADMK supporter all his life, but he would be voting for Raja this time because he is upset over his party's alliance with the BJP.
"The alliance with BJP is finishing AIADMK. People are upset with the BJP for so many reasons here. We feel that Modi has hurt our Tamil pride. EPS and OPS are behaving like vassals of Delhi rulers. I have decided to vote for the DMK this time. Nothing is left in AIADMK after Amma's death", he said.
Raja is getting a huge response among the tribal voters of the constituency. Raja seems to have managed the leaders of four major tribes — Badaga, Thoda, Kota and Kurumba in the seat.
A small time trader William said that Raja did a good work after the devastating landslide in Ooty a few years ago. "Raja is easily accessible. He mingles with people. We are sure that he will do well and if the UPA comes to power, he will be a Central minister again".
Raja's followers maintain that he is innocent and was framed by some powerful vested interests in the 2G Scam. Parthiban, a DMK worker said that Raja was "fixed" because he is a Dalit.
"Raja has been acquitted by a court. It proves that there was no 2G Scam. It was the creation of the then CAG Vinod Rai. He should apologize to the nation for "creating" a huge scam, where there was no scam", he said.
The infighting in the AIADMK is also helping Raja in this high stakes election. After Jayalalithaa's death two years ago, the EPS-OPS combine is finding it difficult to enforce party discipline and those who are upset with its alliance with the BJP are likely to stay away from campaigning or they may even vote for the DMK claim some party insiders.
AMMK, the breakaway faction of the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa's close aide jailed Sasikala Natarajan's nephew TTV Dinakaran is also expected to cause some damage to EPS-OPS vote bank.
"Dinakaran may not win. But, he can defeat the AIADMK - BJP led NDA in many seats by bagging 50,000 to 1 lakh votes" said Gurusamy, a local political observer.
"According to me A Raja's win is a foregone conclusion. He is winning 200%, not 100%. He is popular in Nilgiris. Last time, he lost because of the negative campaign against him and remember Jayalalithaa was CM and she was alive" said Rathan Kumar, a Coimbatore based political analyst.
Not taking chances, Raja and his supporters are extensively campaigning across the undulated mountains of Nilgiris to stage a comeback in this election.
Nilgiris votes on April 18th along with 38 other Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu in the first phase of seven phase Parliament election.