With Nilgiris Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu going to polls on Thursday, all major political parties are banking on Kannada votes, that are a deciding factor in the seat.
The Nilgiris (SC) constituency, with six Assembly segments, is dominated by Kannada-speaking people in Bhavanisagar, Gudalur, Ootacamund and Mettupalayam.
Coonor and Avinashi Assembly segments are also home to a small number of Kannada speakers. A majority of these had migrated from Mandya and parts of Chamrajnagar districts as labourers and many own farms and estates in the hilly terrain of the constituency. Apart from Nilgiris, parts of Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Erode, Coimbatore and Tiruppur also have a good presence of Kannada speakers.
A Raja in Fray
Nilgiris is seeing a high-profile contest this time with 2G-scam accused and former telecom minister A Raja from the DMK in the fray. He is facing a tough fight from C Gopalakrishnan (AIADMK) and P Gandhi (Congress). BJP candidate S Gurumurthy’s nomination papers were rejected.
Raja and Gopalakrishnan are campaigning extensively in Kannada dominated areas of Talawadi, Hoogavadi, Gattadavi, Kongahalli, Sirimugai and other places under Bhavanisagar Assembly segment. The DMK has roped in its block secretary and Kannada-speaking Kapanna to campaign, while the AIADMK has brought in Kempamani, a local-unit leader, also a Kannadiga.
The AIADMK leaders are making an all-out effort to take advantage of BJP’s absence. They feel that the saffron party should support them as they would play a crucial role in the formation of the next government at the Centre.
The DMK, which had brought many leaders from Karnataka to campaign during the previous Assembly polls, has no prominent leaders campaigning in pockets dominated by Kannadigas this time.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders in Mysore and Chamrajnagar said they have not received any intimation from the KPCC and TNCC to campaign for party candidates. Balu , a resident of Talawadi, said many voters in the constituency are in favour of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
“It is unfortunate that papers of BJP candidate were rejected. Hence, voters are forced to chose a different party,” he said.
He said BJP’s absence is a blessing in disguise for the AIADMK, hoping that party supremo J Jayalalaithaa will support the NDA after polls.
Another resident Channananjappa said Kannadigas have no issues as the government has ordered status quo on closing of Kannada medium schools.
He said Kannadigas are deciding factors in two Assembly segments in the state and they also matter in the Lok Sabha elections.