Anbumani faces tough fight from DMK, AMMK in Dharmapuri

Seeking re-election from this Vanniyar-dominated constituency in north Tamil Nadu, former Union Health Minister and PMK nominee Dr Anbumani Ramadoss might have to go the extra mile in this election. One factor is the anti-incumbency factor that the PMK and Anbumani face. 

Dharmapuri will witness an interesting three-cornered contest during the Lok Sabha on April 18, when Anbumani takes on DMK’s Senthil Kumar and AMMK candidate and former Minister P Palaniappan

Senthil Kumar hails from a prominent political family in Dharmapuri, and is a doctor by training, like Anbumani.

Though Anbumani claims he has fulfilled all promises made to the people during his 2014 election campaign, people say he wasn’t seen much in the constituency after winning the polls. Some point to the fact that he lost the Assembly elections in Pennagaram, in the Dharmapuri Lok Sabha segment, during the 2016 Assembly polls as evidence of his unpopularity. 

This time around, the PMK leader, who was Health Minister in the UPA-I Government, also has to court the anti-incumbency factor of his alliance partners - the AIADMK and BJP.

Then there is also disenchantment among his own cadre. Many cite lack of access to Anbumani has one of the reasons that could fuel the anti-incumbency sentiment – the PMK leader stays in Chennai and the complaint is that he visits the constituency only occasionally.  Some people feel that voting for a person like Senthil Kumar, who lives in Dharmapuri, would make their lives easier.

A section of the people in Dharmapuri and Harur feel that Anbumani has done little to solve the water crisis in the district and has failed to bring in industries to arrest migration from the region.

However, some people also acknowledge his role in getting the Dharmapuri-Morappur railway line sanctioned by the Centre, that would ensure direct train connectivity from to Chennai. His initiative in constructing bus shelters and bus stands is also appreciated.

“Anbumani has spent every penny of his MPLAD scheme in the past five years. For so many years, people at Dharmapuri bus stand did not have access to drinking water. Today, he has ensured that. Much needs to be done, but he should get a second chance,” Dhanasekaran, a shop-keeper in Nallampalli told DH.

Caste equation

Though there are plenty of issues, caste overshadows everything else – both Anbumani and Senthil Kumar are Vanniyars, while Palaniappan is from Velalla Gounder community, which also has a sizeable vote bank. The AMMK candidate is also expected to split the AIADMK votes which could be a headache to Anbumani.   

In 2014, Anbumani was overwhelmingly supported by Vanniyars, against the backdrop of consolidation of OBC groups following violence in Dalit colonies - the marriage of a Vanniyar girl by a Dalit boy was the trigger here. With Senthil Kumar coming from the same community, Vanniyar votes could see a split, while the crucial Dalit could go to the DMK or AMMK.

“Even educated youth vote on caste lines in Dharmapuri. I am from the Dalit community and my family has been voting for AIADMK because of Amma (Jayalalithaa). But this time we will vote for the 'Rising Sun' (DMK). We feel DMK will protect our rights now rather than AIADMK, whose leadership doesn’t inspire,” Prashanth, a college student and first-time voter, said.

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Anbumani faces tough fight from DMK, AMMK in Dharmapuri

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