ANDIPATTI: Andipatti in southern Tamil Nadu has been in the limelight ever since the constituency returned MGR in 1984, even though he was lying at the Brooklyn Hospital in the United States and did not personally come to file the nominations or even campaign.

It was no surprise that AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalitha chose to file one of her nominations from this predominantly rural constituency, though her nomination has since been rejected. But the divide in Andipatti in terms of development is lurking in contrast.

At one end, the town and villages of Andipatti is relatively well developed with some very good tar roads, over 56 schools, a private engineering college, a few sugar mills, schools with computer education and the like. Yes, Andipatti too has internet centres, like in all of Tamil Nadu.

But, on the other hand, the levels of education and the poor literacy rate speaks for itself. That is reason enough why the people of Andipatti hold MGR in such high esteem and some of them still believe that that legend still lives on. This was put across best by an old woman, Raghamma, of Thimarasanaickanur village in Andipatti, who could hardly tell her age — she first
said her age is 100, then when the villagers said she does not know her age, she went into another bout of thought, then said she must be 60 years.

“I like MGR a lot. Is MGR alive?” she smiles sheepishly, “I will vote for MGR’s two leaves symbol.”
Then came this moment. Do you know Jayalalitha? Raghamma goes into a shell. “Who is she,” Raghamma asks after much thought.

The villagers around her prod on. “Here there are several people like her, who do not even know that MGR is dead. They do not know of Jayalalitha either. They just vote for MGR’s two leaves symbol. That is why the AIADMK will always have an edge in the southern districts.”

Raghamma adds, “MGR had come to our village years ago. He held my hands and wished me well.”

“Neenga ella nalla valnum (you all should live well). MGR was our well wisher. So, we cannot forget him,” she adds.

Ramthai, another old woman of the village comes near. Even she is not aware of her age. “I don’t know Jayalalitha,” she says. Who will you vote for? “My vote is for MGR. He is god.”

Well, in this village, everybody is in some party or the other. And they are all open about their allegiance. Everyone else knows who the other votes for.

But one good thing is that even from this village in Andipatti, there has been one person who has gone to the United States and Singapore. All the villagers know of the youth, Manoj Kumar. They are all proud.

Has anyone in your village learning computer education. Pat comes the reply. There is one girl, Thilakavathi, who goes to learn computer. No, none of these villagers realise what it means. But they are all proud of the child. There are a few other young boys and girls. They all go to school. Andipatti, which has about 60 km of hilly areas and 65 kms of plains, has a future. Whether they all vote for MGR or Jayalalitha, it does not matter. They are in their own world. They live on for MGR. After winning that historic election in 1984, MGR came to Andipatti and put a public meeting. In gratitude for their vote, MGR gave them the Anna Cooperative Spinning Mills, the Rajashree Sugar Factory. He got them loans for their livelihood. Then, it is no surprise that Jayalalitha came in January this year and commissioned a bronze statue of MGR in Andipatti. T.T.V.Dinakaran, Saiskala Natarajan’s nephew who won the Periyakulam Parliamentary constituency under which Andipatti Assembly constituency falls, in 1999 has developed a good rapport with the people. Andipatti is developed, much beyond the thoughts of those urbanites.