Villupuram, May 5: Seeking election for the fifth time, DMK firebrand leader Dr K Ponmudi is all set to bag a hatrick in this DMK bastion.
Locking horns again with AIADMK nominee R Pasupathi, whom he defeated in the last elections, Dr Ponmudi alias Deivasigamani is leaving no stone unturned to register his third victory in this Vanniyar-dominated constituency.
'The DMK's election manifesto, which had already became a hit among the people, is alone enough to win votes for me', says Dr Ponmudi, the physician turned politician, who became Health Minister in the Karunandhi regime after making his debut in 1989.
After losing the 1991 elections, when the DMK faced a rout in the aftermath of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, Dr Ponmudi staged a comeback in the 1996 elections, to once again become Minister in the Karunanidhi regime, this time in charge of Transport.
The constituency, located in the north-central part of the state, had first elected a Congress candidate in 1957, but that was the first and last victory for the Congress party.
Sarangapani Gounder, who won the maiden poll in 1957, defeating DMK nominee M Shanmugam Udayar, tried his luck in the next three elections, but faced defeat at the hands of Mr Shanmugam.
Only when MGR's then nascent AIADMK entered the fray, the DMK's monopoly in the constituency was broken. The DMK resurfaced in the 1980 elections, only to be defeated again by the AIADMK in 1984.
After this, it was the turn of Dr Ponmudi to take on the AIADMK in the battle for the ballot. Having won the 1996 and 2001 elections, he is seeking a hatrick now.
Besides being known for DMK dominance, Villupuram often made news for leading political functionaries switching loyalty. In an interesting turn of events, S S Panneerselvam, fielded by the AIADMK in the 1996 elections, crossed over to the DMK after losing to Dr Ponmudi. In a similar fashion, PMK nominee R Pasupathi, who had lost to Dr Ponmudi in the 2001 elections, quit that party and joined the AIADMK. He was promptly rewarded with a seat by the AIADMK.
With about 50 per cent of the population being Vanniyas and about 30 per cent Dalits, the DMK is heavily banking on its ally, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which enjoys Vanniyar support. AIADMK is hoping its ally Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) will pull in some votes.
The DMK, heading the six-party alliance and the AIADMK, which had roped in the MDMK and the DPI, give a hard choice to the 2,11,490 electorate, who include 1,04,817 men and 1,06,673 women.
Dr Ponmudi is highlighting his work for the betterment of the constituency. He has stressed his contribution towards setting up a new bus stand, master complex and laying of cement roads.
With proximity to both DMK Supremo M Karunanidhi and party Deputy General Secretary M K Stalin, Dr Ponmudi can expect a ministerial berth if the DMK-led alliance is voted to power.
His rival Mr Pasupathi, on the other hand, faces the task of getting rid of the image of a 'betrayer.' With the AOADMK high command opting for him though he is considered a newcomer in the party, there is discontent among AIADMK workers.
'Party supremo J Jayalalithaa has reposed faith in me and I have to prove worthy of the confidence reposed in me,' says Mr Pasupathi, who has launched a no holds barred fight against Dr Ponmudi.
The presence of actor Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokkue Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) nominee Duraisamy and Tamil Nadu Vannigar Sangangalin Peravai candidate Mohammed Jakkaria in the contest will cut into the vote banks of both leading players.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded V Sukumar but in the already crowded field, witnessing a close fight, he is not expected to make much impact.