Tainted former telecom minister A Raja has a daunting task of proving himself. Not only did the DMK keep faith in him through the infamous 2G scam charges and his arrest thereafter, but has also given him a ticket to contest from Nilgiris constituency for the second time.
While the ruling AIADMK has been making the 2G scam involving Raja its main poll plank at this hill station in Tamil Nadu, the DMK leader and the party’s Dalit face is, interestingly, using it to his advantage for the April 24 polls.
Raja, who spent 15 months in Tihar Jail following his arrest, made an emotional appeal to locals while campaigning. “I am optimistic that the judgement in the court of law will be in my favour. Before that, I want a verdict from the people,” he said, while also reminding them of the role he played in mitigating their problems during the floods of November 2009. The 50-year-old leader, who is on a whirlwind campaign across six Assembly segments of the constituency, promised to do better if he is re-elected. Nilgiris, a major tourist attraction, has three Assembly segments on the hills and three in the plains. Udhagamandalam, Gudalur (SC) and Coonoor are on the hills.
The AIADMK, which is trying its best to put a chink in the DMK armour, has fielded local C Gopalakrishnan, chairman of Coonoor Municipality, against Raja. Gopalakrishan is banking on the achievements of the three-year Jayalalithaa government and the support of party MLAs who hold the Avinashi, Mettupalayam and Udhagamandalam segments in the constituency. “People, even in rural areas, are aware of the 2G scam. Therefore, it is a cakewalk for our party,” he said.
The Congress has nominated P Gandhi, a native of the distant Namakkal district, who is perceived to be a supporter of former MP and senior leader R Prabhu. Prabhu had represented Nilgiris Lok Sabha segment five times between 1980 and 2004. And with the nominations of BJP’s primary candidate S Gurumurthy and substitute D Anbarasan being rejected, Raja is confident of putting up a good show.
Even though the constituency will throw up a multi-cornered contest with the AAP and others too in play, it will primarily be a battle between DMK’s Raja and AIADMK’s Gopalakrishnan. The Nilgiris constituency has an electorate strength of 12.41 lakh.