An ‘emotional’ battle is going on in Viralimalai

A few days ago, a video clip of Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, lamenting about his frail health and that he lost seven kgs recently, went viral on social media.
An aerial view of the Viralimalai Murugan Temple | Express
An aerial view of the Viralimalai Murugan Temple | Express

PUDUKKOTTAI: A few days ago, a video clip of Health Minister C Vijayabaskar, lamenting about his frail health and that he lost seven kgs recently, went viral on social media. He was speaking during his campaign at Viralimalai constituency in Pudukkottai. So what is the ground reality of Viralimalai? Can Vijayabaskar secure a hat-trick victory from here? 

Even though the Minister has left no stone unturned to garner votes — he distributed Pongal gift boxes to every household at Viralimalai constituency as well as distributed various welfare packages to the people before the announcement of election — he is facing a tough battle at the abode of the famous Murugan temple.

Meanwhile, DMK candidate Thennalur M Palaniappan(52) has commanded considerable support from the villagers. Palaniappan is a businessman and runs a gas agency. While Vijayabaskar has already won from Viralimalai twice, Palaniappan lost twice. In 2011, he contested as an independent candidate and in 2016, he contested on a DMK ticket.

Even as an independent candidate, Palaniappan was able to secure 15,397 votes in 2011 elections. In 2016, he lost to Vijayabaskar again by a margin of 8,447 votes. Some locals told Express that Palaniappan has sold his properties one by one due to the repeated election drubbing and his family is in financial crisis. Given the popularity at Viralimalai, Palaniappan’s situation has evoked a massive sympathy wave among the people. Palaniappan is one amongst people, and attends family functions. He endeared himself to people when he helped them out during crisis situations, namely, Gaja Cyclone, Covid etc.

Moreover, Palaniappan’s daughter Lavanya Lakshmi, who is studying MBBS, is also campaigning for her father. She says she would give free healthcare service to the people of Viralimalai after she finishes her course and added that this is her father’s desire. The financial situation of Palaniappan and the campaigning of his family members have added to his goodwill.  To counter this, Vijayabaskar has also changed the tone of his campaign to reach out to the public sentimentally.

 Vijayabaskar’s daughter Rithanya Priyadharshini is also campaigning across the constituency. Priyadharshini is reminding the people of Vijayabaskar’s achievements in the constituency as well as in the fight against Corona and speaking of the minister’s personal sacrifices for the welfare of the people.  “My father has toiled during Covid without caring for his own safety. He did not come home for Diwali also,” she says. 

Clash of words between candidates
Palaniappan’s campaign spots are filled with emotions as people’s eyes well up with tears after listening to his speeches. Sometimes, Palaniappan also turns emotional and weeps along with the crowd. Supporters of Vijayabaskar are alleging that the tears of Palaniappan are fake. 

During one of his campaigns, Vijayabaskar had said,“Some people will come to you and cry. Do not believe them. They would come and see you for these 10 days alone but I am here with you for 10 years and I will be with you forever.” Responding to this, Palaniappan says in his campaigns, “My tears are not fake. I consider the people here as my family and hence I share my emotions with them. I am not crying at the feet of CBI or higher authorities out of fear.”   

Issues facing the constituency
Lack of jobs remains one of the biggest problems amongst youngsters. Most of the people in the area are involved in agriculture. For youngsters, lack of industries forces them to come to Tiruchy and neighbouring districts for work. While the AIADMK says that they have brought jobs to 3000 women with the ITC factory, locals say that it is mostly contract work. 

Candidates Speak
Palaniappan says that there has been no development health wise, in the constituency, despite his opponent being the health minister.  Vijayabaskar also says, “We realize that we need to provide job opportunities for the poorest of the poor. Already, we have signed a memorandum with ITC and have provided jobs to over 3000 local people in Viralimalai,” said Vijayabaskar.  

Previous election result 2016
VOTES: 84,701 (49.69%)
VOTES: 76,254 (44.74%)

Total: 2,24,550 l Male: 1,108,10
l Female: 1,13,723 l Others: 17

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The New Indian Express