Virudhachalam (Tamil Nadu), May 5: Actor - Politician ''Captain'' Vijayakanth is hoping to beard the lion in its den in his maiden bid to enter the state assembly and is well poised to turn the tables on the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) in the Vanniya dominated constituency.
A native of Madurai, in South Tamil Nadu, Vijayakanth, sprang a surprise when he chose this constituency, a PMK stronghold, instead of the safer Madurai district, which had always been kind to film stars. The reason put forth was that some of his movies were not allowed to be screened in Virudhachalam due to pressure from PMK and Vijayakanth wanted to teach the party a ''lesson''. But the actor dismisses it as ''rubbish.'' ''If one claims himself to be a mass leader, he should be able to win from any part of the state and I wanted to drive home this point,'' a confident Vijayakanth says as he moves on with folded hands, appealing to the people to make the ''Murasu'' (Drum, the party symbol) sound in the assembly.
Once a Congress bastion, Virudhachalam in Cuddalore district, became a PMK stronghold after the Vanniyas rallied around to pledge support to Dr Ramadoss, founder leader of the party.
It had elected the Congress four times, the DMK and AIADMK two times each and the Janata with Congress support once. In the 1996 elections, the DMK had won the seat only to lose it to the PMK in the last elections.
PMK nominee Dr R Govindasamy, who is seeking re-election was in the driver's seat, till Vijayakanth fielded himself here. But the physician turned politician was not perturbed.
''The era of film stars taking the people for granted has gone.
people are very well aware of what is happening and they will teach Mr Vijayakanth,'' Dr Govindasamy, a low profile politician says.
''I have spent the entire constituency development fund in the last five years for roads, sanitation and for providing basic infrastructure in the constituency and my achievements will get me votes,'' he asserts.
When the 112-year-old Manimuthar dam was washed away in the floods last year, the Virudhachalam town was cut off and Railway Minister R Velu promptly came to the rescue of the people. The minister arranged a ''push and pull train'' between Virudhachalam town and junction and this was widely appreciated by the people, Dr Govidasamy says.
About 46 per cent of Vanniya population in the constituency should be a worrying factor for Vijayakanth, who belongs to the Telugu speaking Naidu community, but the actor is confident of toppling PMK's cart.
He says the people, having seen the two parties, are yearning for a change and they look upon him to provide the much needed change.
''People strongly believe that I will fulfill my promises and keen on giving me a chance,'' he asserts.
The actor has promised to provide ration items at the door steps, create employment opportunities, getting compensation to the families, whose lands were acquired by the Neyveli Lignite, among other things.
For the actor, his wife Premalatha was the major strength as she had visited each and every village canvassing votes for her husband.
She is even more popular than her husband among women. She had also visited churches and dhargas in a bid to woo the minorities.
''This time I will vote for Vijayakanth..we have seen the two parties and this time I want to give a change to him as he promises to bring about a change,'' says Ambika of Poonthottam village.
The actor might not able to form the government, but definitely do something to the constituency, she believes. Ms Subha, who runs an idly shop also shares her views.
''My husband has asked me to vote for ''Mambazham'' (Mango, symbol of PMK), but I have decided to vote for Vijayakanth..I believe he will do something good for the constituency,'' she says.
Mr Mohandoss, a court staff and a staunch supporter of the DMK, admits that it was a close fight between Vijayakanth and the PMK and the latter should be able to just scapethrough. The Muslims also constitute a sizeable vote bank. About 30,000 Muslim voters in Mangalampet and Virudhchalam await for the ''directive'' to be issued by the Zamat, couple of days before polling, Mr Ziaudhin, a coconut cake businessman said.
As the fight is only between Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) and PMK, the AIADMK is pushed to the third place though party nominee P R Kasinathan was confident of winning the race.
''Amma (Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa) has sought votes for me and the people are impressed with the achievements of five-year AIADMK regime,'' he says. The free distribution of bicycles and notebooks and bus passes to school children, besides Ms Jayalalithaa's promise of ten kg free rice, half a soverign gold for ''Thali'' and waiver of farm loans dominate the AIADMK campaign.
There are 11 other candidates in the fray, including three more ''Vijayakanths'' to confuse the voters. The Indpendents included Durai Ramachandran, an actor and Ms Devi Jerina, a side actress, both directly affected by the actor in the film industry jumping into the fray to ''expose'' the actor.
Joined by Directors Seeman, Gauthaman, Bhrathy and Thankarbachan, they launch a no-holds barred attack against Vijayakanth and appeal to the people to ''teach the actor a lession''.
The constituency has a total electorate of 1,96,373, including 97,394 men and 98,979 women voters. Virudhachalam was the only place in the state to have five rivers-Thenpannai, Gedilam, Manimutharu, Vellaru and Kollidam. Similarly, this was the only place, where a temple has five Gopurams (towers).
The place is also famous for Kolanjiappar temple, which is thronged by devotees from several parts of the country to get their grievances redressed. It is believed that if they write down their problems and put them in the ''hundi'', they would secure a solution within three minutes to three months time.
The relief is not free of cost as they have to pay a ''fee'' of ten paise per km of distance they would cover to come to the temple.
The devotees sincerely calculate the amount and put the same in the temple hundi.
The Virugideeswaran temple has five 'Gopurams', five Nandis and five flag masts. As five is the lucky number for Vijayakanth, he has chosen the constituency. His convoy also comprises five main vehicles.
Whether his belief in numerology or his popularity would earn him the maiden victory at the hustings, remains to be seen!