Here, it’s not lofty promises of development that count, it’s about who the real son of the soil is.

Picture by Divya Karthikeyan
news TN 2016 Tuesday, May 03, 2016 - 09:09

Each time DMK supremo M Karunanidhi campaigns in his constituency of Thiruvarur, he croons the same song. "He will say it’s his last election. He will say vote for me. He will make one promise of some college which we can’t even afford to go to and then leave for Gopalapuram.” This, Praveen, a 26-year old software professional says, has been the story of every campaign the DMK Chief holds in his home constituency Thiruvarur since 2006. He along with many others, especially young voters, are visibly disenchanted. “It has been his final election for the past 10 years.”
In the town, a palpable anger and skepticism built up over the years as the DMK chief reinforced that if no one voted from his home turf, it would be a letdown for a man with a political career such as his.

“A lot of us will say, ‘Why should we care?’ but the votes will go to him, because it is a joke to expect development in the constituency from a man whose hopes are set on a Chief Ministerial post,” says a DMK worker, who had a huge fallout with the party last year.

Last year, the first time he contested from his home constituency with the victory margin of over 50,000 votes registered is the highest -ever recorded by him in the 12 Assembly elections he has contested since 1957.

“In the name of a home constituency, he has done nothing. We had literally gifted the votes to him last time. Something is fishy. He’s here under the sentiment of a home constituency, but he switched because he got a significantly lower margin in Chepauk last time,” says Palani, a petty shop owner who was once a DMK worker.  In 2006, Mr. Karunanidhi won in Chepauk by a margin of 8,522 votes. And it’s not just Palani, many voters in the town believe he will win but at a lower margin this time.

A house in Thiruvarur adorned with the 'Udayasuryan', DMK's party symbol

Contesting against the DMK are ANR Panneerselvam, a first time AIADMK candidate, and CPI member Masilamani from the DMDK-PWF alliance. But here, it’s not promises of development that count, it’s about who can keep up with the narrative of authenticity. “Here, it’s a contest between candidates to prove who is a true Thiruvarur local,” says Rajeshwari, a beedi seller inThiruvarur’s main market. Accordingly, Panneerselvam has begun his canvassing under the title ‘son of the soil.’

But AIADMK’s freebies galore is paying off. Many women voters who are exhausted with the authenticity narrative are starting to turn to the AIADMK. “Panneerselvam has no local strength, but he should thank his stars he’s in Amma’s party. Otherwise he wouldn’t get the votes he will get this time.”

In the fields surrounding the district, Mani along with three others are tilling into the late afternoon, skipping lunch. “We have had a bad harvest of paddy this season and it’s getting worse by the year,” he rues. “We are angry that nothing has been done for us, and the only progress has been that the methane project has been halted,” he adds. The fierce opposition by farmers and to the Kaveri delta coal-bed methane extraction project, had prompted the AIADMK government to halt the project. While farmers say they will vote for the AIADMK this time, a swing could also be likely. “Some of the older labourers here will vote for Kalaignar’s seniority. That is all it takes.”

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