SALEM: Yet another election, yet another round of family feud. At Veerapandi constituency in Salem, the legendary battle between the families of the two wives of former satrap, Solai Gounder, has been continuing for the past few decades.
This Assembly election season, it is between DMK candidate ‘Veerapandi’ A Raja and his cousin S Manonmani of AIADMK.
It was AIADMK founder and former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran who put a beginning to the feud by fielding Vijayalakshmi Palanisamy against her uncle and the late strongman of the DMK ‘Veerapandi’ S Arumugam.
Solai Gounder was an influential person in Salem, who had two wives and four sons - S Palaniappan and S Kandasamy from the first wife, and S Arumugam and S Kuppusamy from the second. Trouble started within the family between Arumugam and Palaniappan in 1970 over a property dispute.
“The enmity heightened after Palaniappan and his son ‘Poolavari’ Sukumaran joined MGR when the latter came out of the DMK and launched the AIADMK 1972. Arumugam was the then MLA. Next year, when Palaniappan and Sukumaran were returning to their village on a bike from Salem after attending a party meeting, they were stopped and attacked by some persons. The father was shot at while the son’s eyes were damaged,” a senior AIADMK functionary told Express.
Arumugam and his brother Kuppusamy were the prime accused in the case, but were later acquitted. The attack created a sympathy wave in the by-poll to Dindigul Lok Sabha seat.
Even though the election came when DMK was in power, the splinter AIADMK managed to win the election by focussing the campaign on the incident and the deceased across the district. AIADMK candidate Maya Thevar emerged as the winner in that election.
Later, MGR fielded Palaniappan’s elder daughter Vijayalakshmi Palanisamy in 1980 and 1984 in which she defeated DMK candidates Srinivasan and Subramaniam respectively.
The family feud was not limited to the families of the two wives. In 1989, Arumugam’s brother Kuppusamy’s son S K Selvam contested from Veerapandi constituency on behalf of the Jayalalithaa faction of the AIADMK, but lost. In 2001, S K Selvam contested on an AIADMK ticket and defeated Arumugam by 30,000 votes from Veerapandi.
In 2006, Vijayalakshmi contested from here but lost to Arumugam’s son Veerapandi A Raja by a slender margin of 1,638 votes. Last time, Selvam defeated Raja by 27,000 votes. His father tasted defeat at neighbouring Sankagiri, where he was defeated by Vijayalakshmi by a huge margin.
Such is the grip that the family has over the seat that Solai Gounder’s family members have won from here in all elections, but for 1957, 1977, 1989 and 1991. Of the 13 elections to the Assembly, nine times Solai Gounder’s family won the elections
(Arumugam in 1962, 67, 72 and 1996; Vijayalakshmi in 1980 and 1984; Selvam in 2001 and 2011; and Raja in 2006).
This time, the AIADMK has fielded Palaniappan’s younger daughter S Manonmani to take on her cousin Veerapandi A Raja. The feud is all set to continue this time around as well.
For the DMK, the electoral fight is also within the party as well. On Friday morning, cadre led by Salem central district secretary and DMK candidate for Salem North, ‘Panamarathupatti’ R Rajendran went to garland Anna Statue in Old Bus Stand. Along with him, Salem South candidate M Gunasekaran, Omalur candidate S Ammasi and Salem West candidate C Pannerselvam were also present there.
While they garlanded the Anna statute, cadre raised slogans praising DMK president M Karunanidhi and treasurer MK Stalin. At that time, DMK former Alagapuram zone secretary Jayavel raised slogans about the late ‘Veerapandi’ S Arumugam, leading to clash between the supporters of Jayavel and Rajendran.
Police sources told Express that none from either of the groups lodged complaint regarding the incident.