ONCE formidable forces on their home turfs, a number of former DMK ministers, fighting corruption charges, are now facing uphill battles in their constituencies.
Among those with a tainted image is senior DMK leader K Ponmudi, who served as the higher education and the mines minister in the previous government. Even his aides admit that Ponmudi faces a tough battle at his constituency of Thirukovilur in Villupuram district.
“He has been flexing his muscles even after the DMK’s defeat and the corruption charges against him. He is hostile to voters but we are not afraid of him now,” said a vegetable vendor in Villupuram.
Only last month a special court in Villupuram had acquitted Ponmudi and his wife in a disproportionate assets case registered in 2011.
E V Velu, another former DMK minister with several cases against him, is finding the going tough at Tiruvannamalai. Velu is being accused of alienating the majority Mudaliar community, who are apparently backing his main rival, the AIADMK’s Perumal K Rajan. The ADMK candidate also enjoys the support of Vanniyars, another community with a sizeable vote bank in the area.
It is a similar story with Durai Murugan, the veteran DMK leader infamous for having allegedly pulled the sari of J Jayalalithaa in the state assembly in 1989. The former state PWD minister is up against it at his once pocket borough of Katpadi — a constituency where he has won six times.
While Murugan is being blamed for his inaccessibility, even DMK supporters vouch for his main rival, the ADMK’s SRK Appu. “It was Appu who initiated relief work for the Chennai flood victims here. Murugan was forced to do the same the very next day as the media highlighted Appu’s efforts. Murugan’s MLA office was also locked for a very long time and it was only after Appu clicked photos of it and put it in newspapers that Murugan acted. He deployed people to remove the bushes and reopened the office,” said Perumal, a local taxi driver.
To make matters worse, the PMK has fielded former Union minister N T Shanmugam. “The Vanniyar votes are also not going to Murugan as N T Shanmugam enjoys a clean image,” said a businessman.
One of the former DMK ministers to buck this trend is K N Nehru. The veteran is contesting from Trichy. Although he faces major allegations of corruption, land grabbing and rowdyism, Nehru has managed to hang onto his influence in this city, the fourth largest in the state in terms of population.
Nehru’s father was a zamindar, who named his son after Jawaharlal Nehru due to his association with the Congress. He was an accused in several land grabbing cases along with his younger brother K N Ramajayam, who was killed in March 2012. The murder remains unsolved. “Nehru will definitely win the election. After his brother’s murder, he has changed a lot,” said a DMK leader in the rival camp.