THOOTHUKUDI (Tamil Nadu): Ruling AIADMK has been trying its level best to retain the Ottapidaram (SC) Assembly constituency while its key opponent DMK is trying to capitalise on the split in AIADMK’s vote share due to the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK).
Ottapidaram was once a Congress bastion until Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) wrested power in 1989 Assembly elections. AIADMK has won the seat five times since 1991 elections, including in 2011 when K Krishnasamy of Puthiya Tamilagam (PT) won in alliance with AIADMK.
Ottapidaram is generally a backward and dry region comprising 161 villages. None of the 19 town panchayats of Thoothukudi district falls under Ottapidaram constituency. Puthiyamputhur, despite being a hub of garment manufacturers, remains a village panchayat. Farming and cattle rearing are the main occupations of the majority of people here.
There are 437 industries in Ottapidaram taluk alone located close to Thoothukudi town. It is also a hub of thermal power plants. However, the hinterland of the constituency has remote villages which lack government bus connectivity between villages and suburban parts.
Ottapidaram, nevertheless, has been a part of history for various reasons. It had produced many freedom fighters and a few to be noted are Poligar King of Panchalankurichi Veerapandiya Kattaboman and his commandants Vellaiyathevan and Veeran Sundaralinganar, Thanathipathi Pillai, a minister in Kattabomman’s cabinet and VO Chidambaram Pillai, popularly called Kappal Ottiya Tamizhan. Vanchi Maniachi railway station located in Ottapidaram is the place where British collector Robert Ashe was shot dead by Vanchinathan.
Agricultural practices in the region have been hit in the past few years owing to poor rainfall and depleting groundwater resources. Vast areas of agriculture lands remain barren due to lack of water for raising crops.
Since the police brutality on Dalit hamlets at Kodiangulam village in the mid 90s, Krishnasamy has became popular among Ottapidaram Dalits.
Ottapidaram residents contend that main issues like drinking water scarcity and water for agriculture needs, shoddy industrial growth and new employment generation have not been addressed even though AIADMK MLAs have been in power for the past 25 years. Theft of groundwater for industrial needs is cited as the main reason for the water depletion.
AIADMK north district secretary and minister for Information and Publicity Kadambur C Raju said Ottapidaram is the fortress of the late AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa. Voters here are clear on dismissing the rival candidates, he added.
DMK spokesperson KS Radhakrishnan who has been touring Ottapidaram constituency, said that his party will emerge victorious this time because people across the Assembly segment want a change in the State and Central governments. The DMK’s manifesto promising farm loan waivers has attracted voters, he said.
‘Will speed up water scheme’
AIADMK candidate P Mohan reiterates that he will speed up drinking water scheme to tackle water crisis permanently and also construct a bus stand. DMK candidate MC Shanmugaiah too says he will expedite the water schemes. AMMK candidate Sundar Raj says he had submitted over 2863 petitions to the Assembly before being disqualified.