KARUR: Between the time the DMK and Congress declared that the national party would contest from 41 seats and the announcement about which the seats were, there was a rather extended period of silence, filled with suspense.
There was one seat that was the stumbling block to the smooth progression of the coalition course, the seat for which even Congress scion, vice president Rahul Gandhi, reportedly put pressure on the local leadership here — the Aravakurichi segment in the agrarian Karur district.
Youth Congress leader and one of the member of the Rahul brigade, S Jothimani, had begun groundwork for this election nine months ago. When Aravakurichi did not figure on the Congress list, she unleashed a volley of strong criticisms and even threatened to contest as an independent candidate.
But the alliance leader put its foot down, refusing to concede. For one, this is one of the rare seats that the DMK bagged in the last Assembly election. More importantly, the sitting MLA, the one who is seeking re-election this time, is K C Palanisamy, an important leader in the party affairs in many ways.
Once a comrade associated with the Communist Party of India for over two decades, 80-year-old Palanisamy — KCP as he is popularly known — metamorphosed into a capitalist in latter years. He was the second richest candidate in fray five years ago, with a declared wealth of `65 crore. He owns a packaging firm that supplies gunny bags to cement factories across the country, with units at Mayanur, Puducherry and Pollachi. He is the secretary of Assets Protection Committee of DMK.
From being an active cadre of the CPI, he joined the DMK in 1971, and became the vice chairman of Karur Municipality in 1989. In the same year, he contested in the Lok Sabha election but lost to M Thambidurai of the AIADMK, the present deputy speaker of the lower house.
Though this is a Gounder belt, Palanisamy flourished in the region despite hailing from a Telugu Chettiar family. Even the district unit of the party split into two, including one backing him, with support growing for non-Gounders. This still continues.
In the 14th Lok Saba elections in 2004, he won from Karur. The octogenarian defeated AIADMK’s Senthil Nathan in 2011 Assembly election by a slender margin of 4,541 votes, thanks to the support from the Muslim population in the Aravakurichi and Pallapatti areas of the constituency. But he also faced criticism for allegedly splurging money in that election.
Palanisamy spent Rs 65 lakh of his own money, over and above his MPLAD limit, for the development of the constituency, say his loyalists, who add that he has managed to implement several schemes despite being a member of an opposition party.
There, however, is no dearth for criticisms. DMK sources said he played a key role in launching the cement factory of Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited (TNPL) when he was Karur MP between 2004-09.
Senthil Kumar, an Aravakurichi resident, points out how he installed generators for the government hospitals in Aravakurichi and Pallapatti, and also at Chinnadharapuram mosque, besides laying roads connecting interior villages.
But another resident Nataraj said that the MLA did not bring any industry, which would have provided them employment, nor a government college for the youth.
There is an interesting twist this time around. Palanisamy was accused of colluding with AIADMK’s V Senthil Balaji in 2006 when the latter contested against DMK candidate Vasuki Murugesan. Last time around, Senthil Balaji won from Karur and went on to become the transport minister before being removed and sidelined.
This time, the AIADMK leadership has fielded him from here, leading to a face-off with KCP, a fight that cadre from both parties are eagerly looking forward to.