Vaiko faces stiff challenge in Virudhunagar

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Virudhunagar (TN), Apr 5: Known for its fireworks and printing units, Virudhunagar Lok Sabha constituency in southern Tamil Nadu is witnessing an absorbing battle of ballot in a five-cornered contest featuring among others Vaiko of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK).

A two-time MP, Vaiko, defeated in 2009 by a margin of 15,764 votes by Congress candidate Manicka Tagore, is hoping to turn the tide in his favour banking on his own popularity besides the "Modi wave", being a part of the BJP-led rainbow alliance.

A strong votary of Tamils cause, Vaiko is seeking a vote to make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister as well to ensure the voice of Tamils in Parliament. He is pitted against ruling AIADMK's local leader D Radhakrishnan, Chairman of Sivakasi Panchayat Union.

Congress, going alone in this polls, has renominated Tagore for the seat which it had won in alliance with DMK. Though no fireworks could be expected in the constituency, comprising Sivakasi, a major crackers manufacturing hub, the battle for votes could well be between MDMK, AIADMK and DMK though CPI-M also has entered the fray.

Caste factor is expected to play a key role in the outcome of the poll with Mukkulathors forming nearly one third of the electorate. Scheduled Castes, and Nadars make up for the other major communities in the constituency, which has a large number of labour class being home to fireworks, match industry and off-set printing presses besides textile units.

Congress leaders are pinning hopes on Tagore, who is considered close to Rahul Gandhi, to make it a second in a row as their MP maintained good rapport with the electorate with regular visits to the constituency.

DMK has fielded S Rathnavel in the constituency, a selection not palatable to the expelled leader M K Alagiri, who has been asking his supporters to vote against 'undeserving' candidates.

The party enjoys considerable support base in this part, but has been facing hurdles in the wake of revolt by Alagiri. CPI(M) has fielded a Dalit, K Samuel Raj, the General Secretary of Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front, as its nominee.

Virudhunagar comprises Sattur, Arupukottai, Tirumangalam, Thiruparankundram and Sivakasi segments and has about 12 lakh electorate. Vaiko, known for his oratory skills, has been luring the electorate speaking their lingo, which has found favour among many.

"Please vote for me, if you think I am good and will do good for the constituency", is the main poll plank of Vaiko, who has been on a blazing campaign trail. Vaiko stirred up a controversy, when he called on Alagiri last month seeking his support.

A open supporter of proscribed LTTE, Vaiko has promised to strive for revoking ban on the outfit and for a referendum on the Lankan Tamils issue for a separate 'Eelam'.

Despite being dwarfed by the likes of Vaiko and Tagore, CPI(M) candidate Samuel Raj is putting up a brave fight and appear confident being a local man.

"People from this region know me very well since, I have been standing shoulder-to-shoulder in participating several struggles during my 28 years in Virudhunagar," Raj told PTI.

Besides, he alleged that Tagore did not serve well the constituency as expected by the people. "One of the issue is the setting up a railway bridge in the busy Ramamoorthy Road. People expected he would do it soon after he won the poll, but still it remains incomplete", he said.

PTI

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