Is it going to be a walkover for DMK in Athoor?

N Ramakrishnan Athoor (Dindigul) | Updated on January 20, 2018

Wall graffiti at Athoor constituency in Tamil Nadu where DMK heavy weight I Periyasamy takes on State Power Minister R Viswanathan - Photo: BIJOY GHOSH

I Periyasamy, DMK

R Viswanathan, AIADMK

Power Minister R Viswanathan battles ‘outsider’ tag and is up against the powerful I Periasamy

The AIADMK’s choice of candidate may well have made it easier for the DMK’s sitting MLA I Periasamy to score a hat-trick of wins from this rural constituency in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu.

Many were surprised when the AIADMK shifted Electricity Minister R Viswanathan from his Natham constituency to Athoor. Tamil newspapers had even hinted that Viswanathan and Periasamy were quite close, and that is why AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa shifted Viswanathan, a senior minister, to Athoor.

As you drive into the constituency, you notice that the roads are for most part smooth and well-tarred. And wall graffiti in favour of Periasamy – referred to as IP by young and old alike in the constituency – far outnumber those for Viswanathan.

‘IP’s a winner’

Selvaraj, a local resident, says Viswanathan has probably been asked to contest from Athoor – when Natham would have been a safe bet for him – mainly to break the nexus between the two leaders. But, he adds that IP would have won even otherwise. He has done so much for the constituency that voters would have blindly pressed the button in his favour. The crowds that come for IP’s meetings are not arranged ones, he says. In contrast, local AIADMK leaders pay up to ₹300 per person to gather a crowd for Viswanathan’s gatherings. In times of drought, when people don’t have any money to spend, this helps.

There is no contest at all, assert a gathering of young men. IP, says one of them, makes it a point to attend every marriage, every funeral or any domestic function in the constituency. In case he is not able to, you can be sure he will drop in the next day or soon after. He helps even those who are not DMK supporters, they add.

“This road here,” says Selvaraj, “was laid when Periasamy was aé Minister – between 2006 and 2011. Since then, the present government has done nothing, except do some patchwork.”

For Athoor village itself – Periasamy’s mother hails from here – the DMK strongman has ensured that water is available for both irrigation and drinking, from the Kamaraj dam.

“We don’t have any drinking water problem here,” says Selvaraj.

Mainly an agrarian economy – paddy is the main crop, Athoor residents say they somehow manage one crop even in a bad year; a good year means they will have two crops.

Money talks?

Rajendran, a goatherd, is non-committal on whom he will vote for, or about who will win. He has about 250 goats and is happy with the money he makes. Both parties spend money to woo voters, he says. The one who spends more may likely win, he adds.

Gajalakshmi, who was tending to a smaller herd of goats on the bumpy road to Kamaraj dam, is, however, confident that it will be IP.

It is just that the outsider tag for ‘Natham’ Viswanathan may help Periasamy, though there are some who suggest that MK Alagiri, DMK President M Karunanidhi’s son and once a party strongman in the southern districts, may try to spoil the party for Periasamy.

Published on May 09, 2016

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