ARIYALUR: Despite the change in his relative fortunes, Kadugur panchayat president, 70-year-old S Dharmalingam, is happy to live where he always has: in a hut. For the former agricultural labourer, electoral success was only a means to help other people.
"I know poverty. I was an agricultural labourer. So I have never sought a life of luxury. I just wanted to protect nature and serve the people in our area,” he said. With the goal of service, he unsuccessfully contested for the post of Kadugur panchayat president in Ariyalur district four times, winning only in his fifth attempt, last year.
Immediately after he won, the resident of Thalayari Kudikadu village planted 500 palm seeds and arranged for light and water facilities at various places in the panchayat. Yet his humble abode remained unchanged, much to the surprise of villagers.
"During the election, I did not give people money, biryani or liquor to get their votes. Our election campaign was limited to me visiting people door-to-door with my family. I gave them hope and they gave me votes," he said.
His 55-year-old wife Chellamani lives in the hut with him. His son Udhaya Suriyan, aged 24, is doing his BEd at a private college in Perambalur while his 20-year-old daughter Yoga Ilavarasi is a Class 12 student in a government school in Ariyalur.
Rueing that the Covid-19 pandemic had limited his panchayat’s access to funds, he said that once funds are available he plans to arrange for better roads, lighting and water supply to the people of the seven villages that come under the panchayat.