Religious divide obliterates good work of ‘Ponnaar’

Consolidation of Christian votes went against Pon. Radhakrishnan in Kanniyakumari

Though he had executed commendable multi-crore development projects in his constituency, which were quite new to the southernmost segment of the country’s mainland, the lone BJP MP from Tamil Nadu and Union Minister of State for Shipping and Finance Pon. Radhakrishnan, suffered a crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha polls from Kanniyakumari constituency at the hands of H. Vasanthakumar of Congress by a whopping margin of 2.59 lakh votes.

While Mr. Vasanthakumar, chairman of the widely popular Vasanth & Co., polled 6,26,916 votes, Mr. Radhakrishnan got 3,67,108 votes.

With this victory, Mr. Vasanthakumar, the richest candidate from Tamil Nadu, has avenged the defeat he had suffered at the hands of Mr. Radhakrishnan in the same constituency in the 2014 general elections.

Mr. Vasanthakumar’s election to the Lok Sabha has necessitated by-poll in the Nanguneri Assembly constituency in Tirunelveli district as he is representing this segment in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.

Ever since the counting of votes started in the Government Polytechnic at Konam here, Mr. Vasanthakumar established comfortable lead right from the first round and stretched the lead further as every round was completed.

Though Mr. Radhakrishnan had executed a few remarkable projects in the constituency during his tenure, especially a couple of flyovers to assuage perennial traffic congestion on the Nagercoil – Thiruvananthapuram Highway, and had declared that the International Container Transhipment Terminal project would be executed in his constituency at any cost, the consolidation of Christian votes in favour of Mr. Vasanthakumar ultimately scripted an unforgettable defeat for him.

The prime reason behind the consolidation of Christian votes against Mr. Radhakrishnan was the “undue religious tension fostered by BJP cadre and the functionaries of Hindu outfits even as he was representing Kanniyakumari segment and went on to become a Union Minister,” the Christians allege.

“Conducting prayer meetings in houses even with relatives became impossible as the BJP cadre and functionaries of Hindu outfits would immediately start an agitation in front of those houses. ‘Intha naadu Hindu naadu, Hindu makkal sontha naadu’ (This is a Hindu nation belonging to Hindus) sloganeering would fill-up the air while triggering panic among the Christians. Though we still have excellent relationship with the Hindu families here even now, these cadre made sustained efforts to strain this relationship. Consequently, number of inter-religious marriages has come down drastically. If he had intervened and controlled these troublemakers, everyone would have backed him as he has performed well as a MP and minister. This religious divide engineered by them became their undoing,” said a Church of South India pastor.

The grievance of Hindu voters is that Mr. Radhakrishnan failed to fulfil 2014 poll promise of ensuring scholarship for poor Hindu students as being given to the minority students.

The Union Minister, who came to the counting centre in the morning itself, was there till the end of the counting of votes. When the lead steadily swelled and crossed 90,000 votes after 8th round of counting, a visibly stunned Mr. Radhakrishnan was seen sitting alone under a shed near the counting hall and scanning his mobile phone on the pan-Indian results being flashed in favour of his party BJP.

Amidst allegations of large scale deletion of Christian fishermen voters from the electoral roll, which might have gone in favour of Mr. Vasanthakumar, the polling got over in the Kanniyakumari constituency on April 18 last. Though several representations were forwarded to Chief Electoral Officer Satyabrata Sahoo and the Election Commission of India seeking “justice for pre-planned mass deletion of voters” from the electoral rolls, the accusations were just rejected.

After the result was declared around 1.30 a.m., the social media were overflowing with tributes to Mr. Radhakrishnan.

“This highly literate constituency had elected stalwarts like Kamaraj and Marshal Nesamony. After these leaders, those who represented this segment miserably failed to bring massive infrastructure development here. However, Mr. Radhakrishnan did a commendable job, which will be remembered for ever. After 28 long years, Kanniyakumari has elected a Congress candidate. He should continue the good work of Mr. Radhakrishnan,” said Subhash, a journalist.

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