Virudhunagar’s three main candidates — B Manickam Tagore of the Congress; Radikaa Sarathkumar of the BJP and Vijaya Prabhakaran of the MDMK — have one thing in common: all are outsiders looking for electoral victory in this Lok Sabha constituency. The outsider tag of the  three has irked the voters in this constituency, adjacent to Madurai.

Tagore was born in Sivaganga; Radikaa Sarathkumar in Chennai and Prabhakaran in Madurai. “How can an outsider do justice to our constituency?” asked Udayakumar, an auto driver in Virudhunagar. They will live in Chennai or Madurai and will come once in a blue moon; what justice will they do to the constituency, he further asks. “Last time, Tagore won. However, people are angry with him for not doing anything for the constituency,” he adds.

The constituency has six Assembly seats — Thiruparankundram (AIADMK); Thirumangalam (AIADMK); Sattur (DMK); Sivakasi (Congress); Virudhunagar (DMK) and Aruppukkottai (DMK).

Auto drivers in Virudhunagar have one major issue — the number of small road bumps that makes it difficult for them to drive. Often, the front wheel gets damaged and needs to be repaired, says Udayakumar.

A couple of major issues across the constituency are lack of decent roads and unemployment. Sivakasi is a manufacturing centre for crackers; Aruppukkottai is known for its cotton and limestone industries and rice mills and Virudhunagar for pulses and food grain markets. All the three sectors are facing trouble. The high power tariff is also a major issue in the constituency, which has a large number of tiny and micro units, say locals.

The ban on firecrackers has left the small town of Sivakasi in doldrums with the livelihood of hundreds of families impacted. “The Supreme Court is yet to give its final order. We just want two things — allow the use of barium nitrate (in firecracker) and saraveddi (row of firecrackers). Let them put various restrictions on these two. We will abide by them. But, let them allow these two,” said a leading manufacturer of firecrackers. “The illegal manufacture of firecrackers is flourishing and affecting GST collections,” he added.

Wooing voters

Radikaa Sarathkumar is banking on the various schemes launched by the Modi government and the anti-incumbency Tagore faces. She has sizeable support from women voters and has been campaigning on the corruption-free image of the Modi government. “Did Tagore come and see you?” asked Radikaa in an election campaign. The reply was a strong no from the audience. Seemaraaja, who distributes eggs to various shops and restaurants and is a strong loyalist of the BJP in Sivakasi, says, “We are carrying the message of the good things that the Modi government has done for the people and corruption free governance at the Centre.” He has a large BJP flag on his vehicle.

On the contrary, the incumbent Tagore is wooing voters on the anti-Modi sentiments due to increase in price of gas cylinders and the hike in petrol and diesel prices (recently reduced). These are affecting the common man, he says. Out of the last three elections, Tagore has won twice in the constituency.

The young Prabhakar, son of DMDK founder Vijayakanth, is hoping that the youngsters will back him because of the strong roots his parents have in the region. He is also likely to get the sympathy vote as his father died a few months ago. “I will give Prabhakar a chance,” said Suresh, a BJP loyalist but who wants to vote for the youngster. “My vote is for his father,” he added.

While the DMK-Congress alliance has an edge in the constituency, the BJP and the DMDK will fight it out. The outsider who wins, faces the daunting task of creating employment opportunities in the region.