Name the trouble!

In at least 24 constituencies, candidates of major alliances face challenge from their namesakes contesting as independents
Name the trouble!

TIRUCHY: Election is not just a game of numbers, as is widely regarded, but one of names too, as has been proved several times in the past when the candidates of major political parties saw themselves pitted against their namesake contesting as independents. This Lok Sabha election is no different as at least 24 of the total 39 constituencies in the state has at least one independent candidate contesting directly against their more popular namesake from the major alliances.

While it is known that such independent candidates may not be able to garner significant number of votes, they sometimes play a crucial role in turning around poll outcomes. A case in point is the 2016 Assembly election when VCK founder Thol Thirumavalavan lost from Kattumannarkoil constituency by a margin of 87 votes. An independent candidate sharing the VCK leader’s name secured 289 votes then, overturning the results.

Of course, some cases may be dismissed as coincidence but surely not all. Several of them prove fodder for suspicions that they are deliberately fielded by the rival camps to split votes.

Take for instance DMK-led alliance candidate for Perambalur constituency Arun Nehru, whose name may not be that too common. A young independent candidate by the same name, however, sprang a surprise by filing nomination for the constituency. The namesake is all of 27 and is a civil engineer in Chennai. When asked about his candidacy as an Independent, Arun Nehru said, “I am contesting because I want youngsters to involve in politics.” He also revealed his father was an AMMK functionary based out of Veppanthattai region of Perambalur.

Former chief minister O Panneerselvam, who is contesting from Ramanathapuram as an Independent with support from the BJP-led alliance, also faces competition from his namesake. When asked about his plan to develop the constituency, one of the six candidates with the name Panneerselvam said, “I’ll discuss with my lawyer and get back. I cannot talk to you now as I am riding bike.” His nomination papers show that he does not have a PAN card and has declared assets totalling `36,000, including the `1,000 in his bank account.

In Coimbatore constituency, two independent candidates by the name Ramachandran are in the fray alongside the AIADMK’s Ramachandran.

Meanwhile, an independent candidate, R Mani, who is contesting from Dharmapuri constituency, dropped a bombshell when enquired of his symbol. “I do not know what my symbol is,” he replied. In Karur, two Independents share similar names with the Congress candidate and incumbent MP S Jothimani. One of them is a male by name A K Jothimani. When TNIE tried to contact one such namesake, Independent candidate S Jothimani, her husband Senthil attended the phone call.

To a question on her poll campaign, Senthil said, “I am a carpenter and am at work now. My wife is at home. One of our relatives, who is with the AIADMK, supported us with filing nomination.”

As for Tiruvannamalai constituency, four candidates go by the name of Annadurai, one of whom is sitting MP CN Annadurai. An independent candidate, S Annadurai, told TNIE that he was yet to start his election campaigning. He also revealed that his father was an AIADMK functionary.

Puthiya Neethi Katchi leader AC Shanmugam, who is contesting on a BJP ticket from Vellore, also faces challenge from six independent candidates, including Shanmugasundaram and Shanmugavelu.

One such namesake, independent candidate K Shanmugam, said, “Contesting an election has been a long-time desire. Hence I filed nomination this time.” Identifying himself as someone who takes tuitions, he said, “Students at my centre in Vellore have never flunked. I hence enjoy a good name in the locality.”

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