Sivaganga: P Chidambaram is sure that his work in the government would help him breeze through this election, but his rivals are gnawing through his achievements saying he did nothing to ease the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Chidambaram, who hails from the affluent Nattukottai Chettiar community, has won all but one election he has contested since 1984. He lost in 1999 from Sivaganga when he contested as a candidate of the Tamil Manila Congress floated by late GK Moopanar.
The most prominent Tamil face in the UPA has been telling people in this constituency that he has fulfilled his promise of ensuring implementation of flagship schemes like the rural job guarantee programme.
But Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK has made his achievements sound trivial by pressing for creation of a separate homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils — an issue at the heart of a decades-old conflict in the Island nation.
AIADMK has singled out Chidambaram for not doing anything to help the cause of the Tamil brethren.
Chidambaram, however, has been steadfast with the development plank, telling the electorate how as Union finance minister he worked to waive farm loans and implementation of NREG scheme in this backward district.
Chidambaram’s opponent AIADMK candidate Raja Kannappan disputes his claims, alleging that most farm loans were taken from money lenders and not from the banks.
The Union minister counters it by saying that he has established a network of 55 nationalized banks in Sivaganga to provide loans to farmers.
Chidambaram’s campaign managers are also focussing on his “clean image” and his growing stature as one of the most important politicians in the Congress ranks.
“If the people look for a clean candidate... then Chidambaram is definitely the best choice for the people, compared to his main rival Kannappan who faced a series of corruption charges”, says local Congress MLA Sundaram.
There was no case against him nor was there a complaint about misuse of even a single paise though he presented national budget for several lakh crores, Chidambaram asserts in his campaign meetings.
His reputation in the constituency, compared to 1999 (when he lost), was far better, and the way he mingled with the people which he didn’t earlier had improved his image, a local DMK functionary S Maruthu Pandian said.
Chidambaram’s campaign is also focussed on setting up two central schools in the district, establishment of two industrial training institutes, besides providing underground drainage facility for three municipalities in the constituency besides disbursement of “phenomenal level” of disbursement of farm loans.
Chidambaram himself says that his stint as finance minister for four and half years helped him implement all the national level schemes on a trial basis.
S Gunasekaran, CPI MLA, questioned the claims of achievements on the rural job guarantee front and alleged that Chidambaram hastily arranged for laying the foundation stone for a Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd unit. The district still remained under-developed and power cuts continued. The local industrial estate too is in a bad shape, he said.
Some believe that the Sri Lankan Tamils issue too may have an impact. “Many from the district have migrated to Sri Lanka long ago and the Tamils issue will have some bearing”, M Chockalingam of Karaikudi said.
Sridharan, a professor in the local college, feels that Congress-DMK combine was strong in three assembly constituencies-- Karaikudi,Sivaganga and Tirumaiyyam,while the AIADMK front has an edge in Tiruppattur, Manamadurai and Alangudi after delimitation of the constituency.
So far, Jayalalithaa alone has campaigned here during which she criticised Chidambaram and blamed him for the economic slowdown besides the Lankan crisis.
Chidambaram had won the last elections by a margin of about 1.62 lakh votes. But with the Left joining hands with Jayalalithaa, a repeat of this feat may be a tad difficult.
Chidambaram’s son Karthick Chidambaram is touring the constituency canvassing for votes for his father.