A likely consolidation of voters of non-Mukkulathor communities in Kovilpatti Assembly constituency may have helped AIADMK’s Kadambur C. Raju defeat AMMK founder T.T.V. Dhinakaran.
The AMMK leader had shifted to Kovilpatti down south hoping to spring a surprise much like he did in Chennai’s Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency in a by-poll in 2017. His supporters back then argued that it would be an easy victory for the party as post-delimitation, the Kovilpatti constituency had a sizeable percentage of voters from the Mukkulathor community to which Mr. Dhinakaran belongs. Some political analysts too had seen this as a shrewd move on the ground that if he won big, in a post-election scenario a weakened AIADMK could look up to him for direction. “Since we (AMMK) have got strong presence everywhere, I have come to Kovilpatti from R.K. Nagar,” Mr. Dhinakaran had reasoned. He toured extensively across Tamil Nadu for electioneering while dedicating only a few days for canvassing in Kovilpatti Assembly segment as he was confident of a good show.
Moreover, the AMMK candidate for Thoothukudi Parliamentary constituency N. Bhuvaneswaran had polled over 19,000 votes in Kovilpatti Assembly segment alone. Kayathar union chairman and AMMK’s southern region organising secretary S.V.S.P. Manickaraja, who is believed to have convinced Mr. Dhinakaran to choose Kovilpatti, too was hopeful of victory. The AMMK anticipated that the imprisonment of Mr.Dhinakaran’s aunt V.K. Sasikala in the disproportionate assets case and her recent release could trigger sympathy from voters of her community. But the trust they reposed on the caste factor backfired. It is felt that voters of other communities favoured the resourceful Mr. Raju.
Political analyst Surya Xavier said a leader who should have identified himself as a representative of all sections of the society, should not have come to Kovilpatti with an eye on getting the support of a particular caste. “While the AMMK hoped to get rousing support of Thevar community voters, other community voters have solidly backed Mr. Raju, which made his win easier than thought. He defeated Mr. Dhinakaran by a margin of over 12,000 votes. Moreover, the linguistic minorities living in Kovilpatti did not want them to be represented by a person with different identity. All resulted in the election of Mr. Raju,” he said.
Nonetheless, Mr. Dhinakaran had never publicly identified himself as a representative of the Mukkulathor community. In fact, he was among the first leader from a dominant community to garland the statue of ‘Tyagi’ Immanuel Sekaran, a Dalit leader.