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P Chidambaram slogging to send his son to Parliament

Sunday, 13 April 2014 - 11:34am IST | Agency: PTI

Innumerable branches of nationalised banks and ATMs dot the region as you drive down from Madurai proclaiming the hold of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who had won seven times from this rural constituency to go to Parliament.

But this time, he is involved in a hard battle to see that his son Karti makes his debut in Lok Sabha, made harder by the fact that the Congress party is friendless and is ploughing a lonely furrow in the April 24 election.

Traditional rivals DMK and AIADMK and the BJP are involved in a red hot contest to snatch the seat from Congress which had held it from 1980, except in 1996 and 1998 when it was held by Chidambaram as a representative of TMC, which was, of course, an offshoot of Congress.

Chidambaram himself chose not to contest from Sivaganga this time giving grist to the opposition mill to take pot shots at Congress' woes in the current election nationally but he remains unfazed.

His theme is that the party has chosen to induct and try a youth in the constituency and that if Karti wins here the people will get "two representatives" for them-- father and son, a sort of buy one, get one free.

However, there is an odd criticism that Chidambaram did very little for the development of Sivaganga, which is yet to shed the tag of backwardness.

The main issues raked up by rivals are unemployment and lack of development.

Chidambaram contests the charge vehemently, saying the expansion and proliferation of the banking sector in his constituency has improved the access of the poor people to financial services making it inclusive.

42-year-old Karti, a Chennai-based Harvard-educated businessman, is waging a Herculean battle against dominant parties AIADMK and DMK and a candidate belonging to BJP which has managed to cobble up a decent coalition in a bid to ride on the Modi factor.

Chidambaram had won the seat seven times between 1984 and 2009. He had scraped through the last election with a slender victory margin of about 3,500 votes amidst controversy.

Karti is trying to connect with partymen and also wooing voters to realise his entry into Lok Sabha and maintain the stronghold of the family over the Lok Sabha seat.

He is resting his hopes on the development works initiated by his father who played a major role in establishing 234 bank branches. 19,000 students got education loans while about 17,000 people get old age pension.

Establishment of skill development centres and local self help groups are some of the steps that flowed out of Chidambaram's initiatives, says Sundaram, former MLA and close aide of Chidambaram.

However, the political opponents of Chidambram dismiss the claims of the leader and accuse him of not bringing industries and taking up development works despite seven terms.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa during her electioneering in parts of Sivaganga constituency had made "non-development" of the constituency by Chidamabram a major issue.

Sundaram rejects the accusations against the minister. He lists development projects such as three national highway schemes, conversion of the railway track to broad gauge, establishment of coir cluster, Spices Park and upgradation of Tiruchi and Madurai International Airports as some his achievements.

Chidambaram was responsible in bringing the BHEL unit in Tirumayam, which is part of the constituency, expansion of the NTC mill, besides establishment of a dozen private mills, says Sundaram.


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