Those who have followed Tamil Nadu’s politics know that Vasanthakumar is the kind of candidate who enjoys displaying great confidence.
In the 2014 general elections, the BJP secured a grand total of one seat (out of 39) in Tamil Nadu. The constituency in question was India’s southernmost district, Kanyakumari. Today, its sitting MP and union minister of state for finance, Pon Radhakrishnan is fighting to be re-elected. But the task won’t be easy.
Five years ago, the DMK and Congress were not allies in Tamil Nadu. The results of the 2014 polls handed Pon Radhakrishnan his seat in Kanyakumari with 3.7 lakh votes, while his opponent in the Congress, H Vasanthakumar tallied only 2.44 lakh votes, which left the DMK with all of 1.17 lakh votes. The BJP had benefited from the lack of an alliance between traditional allies the DMK and Congress.
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Cut to 2019, however, and both these parties have joined hands — a factor which has ensured that Radhakrishnan’s work is cut out for him. “Don’t underestimate the situation,” he tells me as I ask him whether the combined votes of the DMK and Congress could mark the end of his hold over Kanyakumari. “These voters will vote for me,” he adds, “The minorities are with me, even Christians vote for me. During the last election, I secured 10,000 votes from the fishing community, most of whom are Christians. We are going to win by a very big margin.”
Christians form a major vote bank in Kanyakumari, with the community accounting for 49 percent of the constituency’s population.
Facing off against Radhakrishnan will be an old foe. The Congress’ H Vasanthakumar will hope to trounce his rival and deny the BJP its only seat of power in Tamil Nadu. Incidentally, Vasanthakumar is also the state’s richest candidate, having declared total assets of Rs 412 crore.
Meeting Vasanthakumar on the campaign trail, I ask him if he’s confident of unseating the only BJP MP in Tamil Nadu. “You forgot to add that Radhakrishnan is also the only BJP MP who was voted to power after making false promises to his electorate,” he tells me, “He promised scholarships to Hindu students in Kanyakumari. He’s yet to deliver on that promise.”
Those who have followed Tamil Nadu’s politics know that Vasanthakumar is the kind of candidate who enjoys displaying great confidence. “I am going to win by over 3 lakh votes, this time,” he says, making it clear that the Congress’ alliance with the DMK and smaller parties like the MDMK and VCK will help him secure more votes than the last time. “People are keen to know how Rahul Gandhi is going to implement his manifesto,” he adds, “Especially the farm loan waivers, 33 percent reservation for women and the abolition of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).”
If the strength of alliances is anything to go by, Vasanthakumar could well be lucky this time around, especially given the fact that Radhakrishnan’s ally is the AIADMK, which has been reeling from heavy anti-incumbency after the demise of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
First Published: IST