Congress Yet To Name Sivagangai Lok Sabha Candidate As Chidambaram Family Lobbies Hard To Secure Nomination

P Chidambaram (right) with his son Karti Chidambaram.

Congress on late Friday (24 March) night announced candidates for eight of the nine Lok Sabha constituencies allotted to it by the DMK in Tamil Nadu and for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Puducherry. Congress had been allotted 10 seats in the DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

The party is yet to finalise the candidate for the Sivagangai constituency, which was represented several times in the past by former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram.

Chidambaram had been elected from the Sivagangai parliamentary constituency six times on Congress ticket and twice on the ticket of breakaway faction of Congress - TMC (Moopanar). He has faced defeat only once from the seat in 1999 Lok Sabha polls. When standing as TMC (Moopanar) nominee, he lost to Congress candidate E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan. Chidambaram narrowly won the election in 2009 after a controversial recounting soon after it was declared that his ADMK opponent Raja Kannappan had won.

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Congress’ reluctance to choose either Chidambaram or his son Karthi Chidambaram stems from the fact that the father-son duo are embroiled as main accused in the bribery case involving Aircel-Maxis. Both of them have been chargesheeted by the CBI.

The case is based on allegations that the Chidambaram-led finance ministry, in March 2006, abused its power to give Maxis Communications FIPB clearance which the latter used to bring in Rs 3,200 crore, far in excess of the ceiling of Rs 600 crore it was authorised to clear on its own. According to the CBI chargesheet, Maxis got FIPB approval on 13 March 2006. Two weeks later, on 29 March, Advantage Strategic Consulting Pvt Ltd, a firm indirectly controlled by Karti, raised an invoice of Rs 26 lakh on Aircel for services relating to “market survey”. Aircel made the payment on 1 April 2006. Another company allegedly run by Karti — Chess Management Services Pvt Ltd — received Rs 87 lakh from subsidiary companies of Maxis for allegedly providing “software services”.

E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Sivagangai constituency as Congress candidate in 1999 election, is making a determined bid to get the party nomination. When Chidambaram rejoined Congress in 2004 and was fielded again from the seat, Natchiappan was made a Rajya Sabha member. He was also the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry in the fag end of UPA2 term

Chidambaram camp followers argue that the seat should be allocated to his son Karti as he secured more than one lakh votes in Sivagangai parliamentary seat when he contested in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. None of the two main Dravidan parties allied with Congress in 2014.

Chidambaram is currently a member of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.

Reports have emerged in local media that the father -son duo may suggest to the party to field Dr. Srinidhi Chidambaram, wife of Karti Chidambaram, as the candidate. A doctor by profession and Bharatanatyam exponent, she had kept away from politics all this while.

Srinidhi is already leading the social media campaign in support of husband Karti, anticipating that he will be fielded from Sivagangai Lok Sabha seat.

Congress party is expected to announced the candidate before Sunday night to enable the candidate to file nomination as the last date for filing nomination is Tuesday (26 March).

The party has fielded Nanguneri MLA and leading businessman H. Vasanthakumar from Kanyakumari, former party president E.V.K.S. Elangovan from Theni, Jothimani from Karur, M.K. Vishnu Prasad from Arni, A. Chellakumar from Krishnagiri, outgoing party president Su. Thirunavukkarasar from Tiruchirapalli, Manickam Tagore from Virudhunagar, and J. Jayakumar from the reserved Thiruvallur constituency.

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