Debating India


Home run at Andipatti

Tuesday 25 April 2006

Express news service

Andipatti, April 24 : This is one constituency where it isn’t too difficult to guess who the winner is likely to be. AIADMK general secretary, J Jayalalithaa, is miles ahead of her DMK rival, A Seeman, a Chennai-based film distributor and a political novice. Not too long ago it was the most backward constituency.

With bad roads, lack of drinking water and proper schools and colleges, the name ?Andipatti (which means ?town of paupers’) truly suited the constituency, 60 km from Madurai and lying in the heart of the scenic Theni district.

Today it is a different story. When Jayalalithaa contested in the Andipatti by-election in February 2002 in the wake of her acquittal in a corruption case, she had promised the voters she would make Andipatti an ?Arasipatti (town of queens).’ True to her word, Amma waved the magic wand as soon as she came to power. A sorely needed government hospital came up first. ??The hospital’s facilities are so good that more than 1,500 patients pour in from outside, even from Idukki district in Kerala. It is good enough to bring even the dead alive,’’ gushed K Kandasamy, the AIADMK’s Andipatti Councillor.

Next came the Arts College. Just drinking water was not good enough for the ?queenly’ town. A Rs 98 crore ?purified’ drinking water scheme for Andipatti and neighbouring Usilampatti and Theni was launched. The roads improved dramatically and the lanes and bylanes of most of the 300 villages in this constituency were concretised. Gleaming new bridges, marriage halls and even ?nadaga medai (drama halls)’ appeared as if by magic in almost every village in the span of just three years. In fact, Ramakrishnapuram in Andipatti must be the only village in Tamil Nadu to have 420 toilets. Most villages in the state don’t have even a single one.

The CM awarded the village panchayat president, A Sellammaal, the ?Best Panchayat’ award. ??It would not have been possible if not for Amma. Her government gave us Rs 1,500 to build each toilet,’’ she said. No doubt, the constituency was a privileged one.

For Jayalalithaa, it was not just thanksgiving. She was showcasing it for her next election. The AIADMK chief campaigned three days in the constituency, covering nearly 40 villages. The response was overwhelming. The villagers were grateful. The ?Uzhavar Paathukaapu Thittam (Workers’ Protection Scheme)’ with its long list of cash doles was implemented in Andipatti.

The woman self-help groups she had carefully nurtured by facilitating loan disbursements paid off. Today, the 40,000-odd SHG woman members spread across 300 villagers in the constituency could well be potential Amma voters. Many of the members have availed of loans ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 25,000. Throw in most of the 60,000-odd Thevar votes and a huge chunk of the 40,000-odd Naidu votes (ally Vaiko is a Naidu) of the total 1.82 lakh-strong electorate and Amma is clearly on the winning track.

The DMK cadres’ optimistic slogan in Andipatti is ?Seematiyai vella vantha Seeman (with a pun on the DMK candidate’s name, Seeman, it means ?the wealthy man who has come to defeat the wealthy lady’). But, it sounds rather hollow even to their ears.

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