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Triangular contest in Vellore LS constituency
Though the candidates of both the Dravidian major alliances – AIADMK (AC Shanmugam of New Justice Party) and DMK (Kathir Anand, son of DMK treasurer Durai Murugam) – are popular faces, the AMMK nominee and former minister K Pandurangan appears to be an underdog, who may pose a tough challenge by cutting into the vote banks of both the parties in the ‘Leather Town.’
Shanmugam, who was initially with the AIADMK, floated the New Justice Party (NJP) after MGR’s widow Janaki lost at the hustings. In 2014 LS polls, Shanmugam contested on the BJP symbol and lost to AIADMK’s B Senguttuvan by a margin of around 59,000 votes.
Although the AIADMK has joined the NDA in this polls, local party cadre initially hesitated to canvas for Shanmugam. He is trying to strike a close chord with them by recalling his clout with Makkal Thilagam MGR. This thing apart, another major challenge he faces is the public anger over Senguttuvan’s utter neglect of the constituency in the last five years.
On other hand, the candidature of DMK treasurer and Katpadi MLA Duraimurugan’s son Kathir Anand, a novice in politics, has upset several hopefuls within the party. That he is yet to learn the ropes was evident when he garlanded party founder CN Annadurai’s statue at Katpadi wearing trousers and a yellow shirt, the colour identified with the PMK (mango symbol), which is in the rival camp. His choice of attire surprised a lot of DMK functionaries.
Though the Vanniyar-backed PMK is part of the NDA, sources observed that Kathir Anand, who himself is a Vanniyar, might get a lion’s share of support from the caste. “Shanmugam belongs to the Mudaliar caste. Even campaigning by PMK founder Ramadoss and his son Anbumani might not help him much to overcome the caste factor,” a local said.
But, it is the presence of former AIADMK minister K Pandurangan, now in the AMMK, which is the likely threat to both Shanmugam and Kathir Anand. Pandurangan, a two-time Anaicut MLA, is likely to split votes even if he does not win.
Talking to DT Next, he said, “I am the only candidate who hails from within Vellore Parliamentary constituency, whereas Shanmugam is from Chennai and Kathir Anand is from Katpadi, which falls under the Arakkonam LS constituency.”
He said the AMMK aims at ensuring that neither of the rival candidates wins easily.
Shanmugam might have to win over the support of a sizeable Muslim population in Vaniyambadi, Ambur, Gudiyattam and Pernambut. That is a challenge as his NJP is part of the BJP-led NDA.
AMMK’s ally the SDPI, which has Muslim office-bearers, is canvassing for Pandurangan.
The Vellore LS constituency, which comprises of Vellore, Anaicut, KV Kuppam (Reserved), Gudiyattam (Reserved), Vaniyambadi and Ambur Assembly segments, has a total of 14.07 lakh voters, including 7.17 lakh women and 82 transgenders. The Congress has been the most successful party as it had won six times from this constituency.
Fight for the fort city
AC Shanmugam (NJP)
63-year-old Shanmugam credits his closeness to former CM MGR for his meteoric rise in politics even today. As the MGR youth wing state general secretary, he was first Arni MLA in 1980. He brought almost the entire state cabinet including MGR to his marriage at Arni – his native town – in the eighties. A law professional, he quit the AIADMK after MGR’s death due to a factional feud between the Jayalalithaa and Janaki factions. He then started the New Justice Party. He won the Vellore MP seat in 1984. He runs the MGR Educational and Research Institute in Chennai and a 1,600-bed hospital at Bengaluru.
Kathir Anand (DMK)
A self-styled businessman, Kathir Anand is the son of DMK treasurer and 9-time Katpadi MLA Duraimurugan. He runs the Kingston Engineering College at Christianpet near Katpadi, besides operating an import and export business. A new entrant in politics, his overbearing attitude has reportedly upset party cadre. According to sources, a senior DMK functionary shifted loyalty to the PMK when Kathir Anand refused him entry into his engineering college as he was wearing a dhoti with DMK colours.
K Pandurangan (AMMK)
He is a two-time Anaicut MLA and a former minister in the Jayalalithaa government. Despite his ferocious outlook, he has an endearing personality which helped him to win over Jayalalithaa. He was reportedly the first to start the practice of prostrating at Amma’s feet. He was the first chairman of TN leather development corporation and was later appointed the state agriculture minister. He is a farmer by profession and hails from a village near Madanur, around 35 km from Vellore. Following the demise of Jayalalithaa, he supported her niece J Deepa. Subsequently, he and another former Anaicut MLA S Kalaiarasu joined TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK.