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Despite attention, Theni’s problems persist

B. Kolappan and K. Raju

“No solution in sight to increase water level in Mullaperiyar dam”


Theni: Few districts in Tamil Nadu have received the attention as Theni has. Besides government schemes, AIADMK Rajya Sabha members, including Thanga Tamizhselvan, T.T.V.Dinakaran, S.P.M. Syed Khan and S.S.Chandran, have nurtured the constituency.

But Theni’s problems are far from over. Primarily an agrarian belt, the sector is facing a crisis as no solution is at sight to increase the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam, which supplies water to the district.

Despite two major rivers – Mullaiyar and Periyar – and the Vaigai dam, large tracts of lands remain rain-fed. Cotton, once a major crop, has almost vanished from the district. Silt has reduced the storage capacity in the Vaigai dam. Rampant sand mining in the Vaigai and Mullaperiyar rivers has worsened the situation further.

AIADMK’s Thanga Tamizhselvan, who attributed the developmental schemes to the AIADMK and its representatives in the Assembly and Parliament, agreed on the need to settle the Mullaperiyar dam issue quickly. “Linking Theni and Sabarimalai through a broad gauge is another major demand of the people,” he said.

The AIADMK is banking on its traditional support base. The district, AIADMK leaders point out, has the distinction of having elected three Chief Ministers: MG Ramachandran, Ms. Jayalalithaa and O.Panneerselvam. AIADMK general secretary Ms Jayalalithaa is the sitting member of the Andipatti (Assembly segment). Mr Panneerselvam, who was the Chief Minister of the State for a brief period, is the member of the Periyakulam Assembly constituency.

After delimitation, the Theni Assembly segment was removed and the Periakulam constituency was named as Theni constituency. With Bodi, Cumbum, Periakulam and Andipatti segments, (in Theni district) and Usilampatti and Sholavandan from Madurai district have been added to the new constituency.

J.M.Aaroon Rashid, the sitting member and the Congress candidate, has emerged as a formidable foe to the AIADMK. Congressmen say he should be judged by the fact that he was able to defeat T.T.V.Dinakaran, who was considered invincible by everyone. The AIADMK is not ready to buy the argument. “He could win only by a narrow margin of 21,115 votes. He is still seen as an outsider,” the AIADMK men argue.

The general complaint against Mr. Aaron is that he failed to visit the constituency adequately. Mr Aaron denies the allegation, saying it is the false propaganda of the AIADMK.

“I flew to Madurai and took the road to the constituency. I did it deliberately because the video camera at the airport recorded my visits. The recordings are a proof of my visit to the constituency,” he claims. He is also distributing a pamphlet listing the schemes secured by him for the constituency.

The Congress seeks to mobilise the votes of Dalits and Muslims in the constituency, while the AIADMK feels that besides a strong alliance, the Mukkulathors, who always backed the party, will throw their weight behind it. The inclusion of Usilampatti and Sholavandan Assembly constituencies with considerable presence of the Mukkulathors has boosted the confidence of AIADMK partymen.

But it is not clear whether the presence of the DMDK candidate, G. Santhanam, who belonged to the Mukkulathor, will split the AIADMK votes. Mr. Aaroon tries to play down the arithmetic strength of the AIADMK alliance, saying except for the AIADMK, the support base of other parties in the alliance is not much in the district.

“Does he mean that the political parties, which were part of the Congress alliance in 2004, have no base,” asks Mr. Thanga Tamizhselvan.

G.James, a Congressman and a Dalit, has entered the fray as a rival candidate. He has the support of the former member of the Theni Assembly Constituency Azhagar Raja, who sought ticket to contest from the Lok Sabha constituency. “I am not bothered. Because even in 2004 election he did not work for me,” says Mr Aaron.

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