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Will OPS’s jackfruit overtake AIADMK’s two leaves in Ramnad?

Split in opposition front enhances DMK-backed IUML candidate’s chances

Will OPS’s jackfruit overtake AIADMK’s two leaves in Ramnad?

Graphical Representation of TN Lok Sabha polls 2024

CHENNAI: Ousted AIADMK leader O Panneerselvam’s decision to take a plunge in the Lok Sabha polls in Mukkulathor-dominant Ramanathapuram constituency has spiced up the three-corner contest in the April 19 polls. Interestingly, the three time chief minister would take on four other O Panneerselvams in the fray, while sitting MP K Navas Kani of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which is part of the DMK-led INDIA bloc and AIADMK candidate P Jeya Perumal are in the fray.

Being an undefeated politician since entering electoral politics nearly three decades ago, Panneerselvam, popularly known as OPS, has been campaigning tirelessly for his political survival. More than winning the seat, he is fighting to do away with the tagline ‘orphaned’ Panneerselvam after repeated failures in the legal battle to prove his stakes in the AIADMK.

Before jumping into the fray as an independent candidate under the NDA fold, Panneerselvam proclaimed that he wanted to prove “the strength of our cadre” and decide to lead from the front in the fight - Dharmayutham 2.0 - to further their cause of winning back the two leaves symbol from the betrayers.

He has been playing the victim card to whip up the emotions of the community people, who account for nearly 40 per cent of the total voters of 16.17 lakh, to garner votes and vault over AIADMK candidate Jeya Perumal. “No one is bigger than the legacy of the party and its symbol. We have seen many tall leaders like ‘Navalar’ Neduchezhian and SD Somasundaram who rebelled against the party, but were reduced to an insignificant position in state politics. It clearly showed that the people only go by the party’s symbol and its popularity. This will be repeated in this elections too,” said senior AIADMK leader RB Udhayakumar, who replaced OPS as Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.

Equating Panneerselvam to a fallen leaf from a tree, Udhayakumar ascertained that the Mukkulathor community would continue to extend their “unconditional love and support to party founder MGR, late party supremo J Jayalalithaa and the two leaves symbol.”

Meanwhile, the sitting MP is banking on the strength of the battle hardened DMK front, which operates like a single entity, to replicate his performance in the LS polls in 2019. He secured 4.69 lakh votes against Nainer Nagendran of the BJP, which was in the AIADMK-led front, who netted 3.42 lakh votes. The split in the opposition front, following the exit of the AIADMK, has further enhanced the winning possibilities of the IUML candidate. This, in addition to the presence of over four lakh Muslim and Christian votes in the constituency.

Apart from the Mukkulathor and minorities, Devanthra Kula Velalar and Yadavas have a significant number. Thickly populated fishermen communities along the seashore would also play a role in the outcome of the polls. “Traditionally, our community voted for the AIADMK to show their love towards MGR. Though the DMK is making an inroad in the recent past, majority will back the AIADMK,” said V Kalidhass of Morepannai fishermen hamlet near RS Mangalam. He also pointed out that the decades-old Katchatheevu issue raked up by the BJP would tilt a section of fishermen community votes. “It is our long pending demand. If it happens, it will improve the livelihood of the community,” he said.

AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, state BJP leader K Annamalai and Tamizha Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam leader John Pandian have campaigned to consolidate votes for Panneerselvam. “PM Narendra Modi’s public meeting helped us to consolidate the votes, particularly among the Devendra Kula Velalar community and the BJP sympathisers and JP Nadda’s road show has further helped in our cause,” former MLA A Subburathinam, who has been campaigning for OPS, said. However, Panneerselvam also earned the wrath of a section of the Thevar community people, who charged that he tasted political success from Periyakulam municipal chairman to the CM post but he did nothing for the people of the community. The puzzle, however, for the April 19 polls will be whether the community will throw its weight behind OPS to revive his political career or remain loyal to MGR’s two leaves’ symbol?

Shanmugha Sundaram J
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