A day after Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) President KS Alagiri released the list of constituencies that the party has been allotted by the DMK in the Assembly elections, he has been accused of sidelining a Congress functionary. ASP Jansirani, the granddaughter of late Congress leader AS Ponnammal, has accused Alagiri of allegedly sidelining her for money.
Nilakottai, in Dindigul district, is a constituency reserved for candidates from the Scheduled Castes. AS Ponnammal, a seven-time MLA in Tamil Nadu, was elected from Nilakottai four times– twice as a Congress candidate, once as an independent and once on a Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) ticket. She was elected from Sholavandan constituency twice and from Palani Assembly seat once. Her granddaughter, ASP Jansirani, was appointed the Chief of Tamil Nadu Mahila Congress, the party’s women’s wing in 2016. On Thursday, in a series of tweets, she accused KS Alagiri of choosing constituencies based on the ’money power’ of candidates, not based on the work done by the party workers on the ground. This after the Nilakottai seat was allotted by the DMK to Makkal Viduthalai Katchi, which will be contesting under the rising sun symbol.
Speaking to TNM, Jansirani said that after her grandmother passed away in 2015, she had requested to be fielded from the Nilakottai Assembly constituency in 2016 for the elections, but was refused a seat. “I took it sportingly. But since then, I have worked in this constituency for more than five years. The present President also had assured me a seat in Nilakottai and urged me to continue my work here,” she said.
Pointing out that the Nilakottai seat had been up for grabs, Jansirani alleged, “If the DMK had plans to contest in Nilakottai, it would not have allotted it to its ally Makkal Viduthalai Katchi. My problem is not about seat allocation for myself, but about keeping money as the main criteria for selecting candidates. All I am asking is to give seats to those who work for the party.” Adding that Nilakottai is a winnable constituency for Congress due to her work on the ground, Jansirani questioned why the TNCC did not demand DMK allot Nilakottai for the party.
However, while the Nilakottai seat was a Congress bastion earlier, the constituency has seen the AIADMK winning since 2001. Contesting as part of the DMK alliance since 2006, the Congress was allotted the Nilakottai that year but lost by a margin of 6000 votes to the AIADMK. In 2011, the Congress candidate was defeated once again by the AIADMK, while in 2016 the DMK chose to keep the seat, but lost to the AIADMK.
Jansirani added that while former President of Congress Rahul Gandhi is particular that the seats must go to those who genuinely work for the party, what happens in Tamil Nadu is contrary to his wishes. “One of the main reasons behind Rahul Gandhi’s resignation from Congress presidency is this – that opportunity should go to true party workers. Even today he stands for it. He has given so much energy to Tamil Nadu Congress workers in the recent past. My opinion is that in such a conducive situation, genuine Congress party workers must be given the opportunity to represent the party,” she said.