The Sivaganga Lok Sabha Constituency is an Indian National Congress stronghold, with P Chidambaram having won from here a record seven times. But the 2014 elections saw AIADMK sweep the constituency, pushing behind the national parties, for the first time in over three decades.
This time, with national parties having formed alliances with the state parties, the scales might tip in anyone’s favour. The battle this elections will play out between two highly controversial candidates in Sivaganga – Congress's Karti Chidambaram and BJP's H Raja.
While Karti is confident of the Congress-DMK alliance sweeping the constituency, H Raja banks on AIADMK’s popularity in the region. “You see, AIADMK is a very big party here and DMK doesn’t have a good leader so my chances are bright,” he tells TNM.
The Sivaganga Lok Sabha Constituency is made up of six Assembly constituencies namely Thirumayam, Tiruppattur, Karaikudi, Alangudi, Manamadurai, and Sivaganga. A land dominated by dry scapes, Sivaganga’s major woes lie in lack of water in addition to need for development.
Both candidates have their fair share of controversy to deal with, with Karti being probed for alleged money laundering in the INX Media scam, and with H Raja’s caustic comments warranting criticism from different quarters of the state. While Karti calls the raids a “scare tactics” by the ruling government for being “vehement critics of this facist regime”, H Raja is confident that people prefer his "plain speaking", of him calling a spade a spade.
A story similar to the Salem 8-lane highway begins to brew in Sivaganga following the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI)’s new proposal of 4/6-lane national highway from Melur in Madurai to Karaikudi in Sivaganga district. This 45-km stretch is being planned under the Centre’s flagship Bharatmala project.
“We are not saying no to the highway, but we don't want our houses to be destroyed in the process. There are 300 to 400 houses that will be taken down if this happens,” says Amrithavalli, a resident of Patharakudi village in Tirupattur.
People of Sivaganga face acute water problems and lack of industries. Having been elected from Sivaganga for seven consecutive times, there’s criticism against P Chidambaram for not having done enough. But Karti reasons, “My father was a very high profile member of Parliament and a high profile minister so expectations are naturally high. I believe he has been a very good MP for Sivaganga, otherwise he wouldn’t have won from here.”
Karti also says that if elected, he would make sure all government policies are implemented here in Sivaganga. “The case in point is when my father was an MP the student loan was prog was a huge success. 20,000 students were directly benefited. We will also focus on private enterprises. There are two areas of interest that can boost the constituency. One is heritage tourism and the other is temple tourism,” he says.
And while H Raja enjoys good support from people of Karaikudi, his area of residence, the sentiment is not reflected in the rest of the constituency. But Raja is sure of gaining more support from people. “People come to me even during normal days, though I am neither MP nor MLA and I am helping them. So this will get reflected when I am representative of the people,” he tells us.
But the people of Sivaganga find themselves in a unique predicament and tell us they’ve been given a tough choice. Rajendran, a farmer and a private contractor from Sivaganga says, “All three candidates are a little weak here. They do not understand ground realities, of people’s woes. We have no choice, we’ll have to vote for someone.”
Seenivasan, who runs a roadside eatery in Semmanur village, also reflects Rajendran’s thoughts. “If you look at Sivaganga’s candidates, we have already rejected Modi. Congress candidates have won many times, six to seven times but it does not look like they’ve done anything good or bad. We will choose a different candidate this time.”