Kodanad, a misty hamlet in the Nilgiris, charmed the aesthete and artiste in J Jayalalithaa. She bought a sprawling estate on the hills and maintained it tastefully. The estate and the bungalow and its resident were elusive to the natives of Kodanad but they knew that it was the power hub from where all governance directives emanated. The political underlings too had limited access to the estate and only the rarefied elements of the AIADMK could meet Amma, that if she wished. When politicians were vying to attract Amma’s attention to themselves and their programmes, it was more than political ingenuity and pragmatism that made C Gopalakrishnan, Nilgiris MP, to adopt the Kodanad village under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yogna.
That was the best thing to do then. But the MP neglected the village after the death of Jayalalithaa in December 2016. Many of the villagers are not aware that their village should have been on the fast track of development.
On a recent evening, as men folk gathered at the local teashop to discuss politics and women trudged their way up hills with water cans, The Federal caught up with them. For the women, walking up the desire paths is an inescapable chore. They have to get water from the well for cooking and other needs. “Come elections, we are promised water pipelines to our streets. Once the representatives are elected, they conveniently forget their promises,” says Nagarajan, a resident of Kodanad. When asked about the MP adopting the village, Nagarajan said he was not aware of it. “Oh! I did not know of this at all,” he said.
Almost 90 per cent of the people in the village are unaware of the fact that their village has been adopted. C Gopalakrishnan has been with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) for the past 32 years. He started as a student wing leader and rose up to become the party’s town secretary in 2004. A lawyer by profession, he served as chairman of the Coonoor municipality. Residents from Coonoor said Gopalakrishnan had not done anything to alleviate the water crisis through his term.
After Gopalakrishnan was elected MP from The Nilgiris, he had to adopt a village under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. He selected Kodanad, apparently to be in the good books of Jayalalithaa, the then chief minister. Kodanad, a village with a sizeable SC population, had initially witnessed some work like concreting of roads inside colonies and installation of streetlights. But after the demise of Jaya, the MP reportedly ignored the village.
The Nilgiris constituency is spread over four districts and the MP needs to work in close coordination with the district collectors of the Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, and Erode. Since the MP has a lot of ground to cover, the AIADMK had deputed Rajya Sabha MPs, KR Arjunan and AK Selvaraj too to the Nilgiris. These MPs had adopted the Arakasanahalli and Basuvapuram villages respectively, in Dharmapuri district.
Villagers say the only work which Gopalakrishnan did in Kodanad was the installation of a streetlight. It was functional only for three days, they added. His other promise was not exclusive to Kodanad. The MP promised steps to ensure better prices for tea. But, the government stopped the subsidies provided to the Indian Co-operative (INDCO) tea factories, directly affecting the lives of tea labourers. AIADMK insiders said the MP was in Delhi predominantly and hence the development projects were getting delayed.
The Federal looked at his parliamentary performance too. Going by statistics, he can only be classified as an average parliamentarian with 74 percent attendance, participating in 36 debates and raising 632 queries. But Gopalakrishnan had repeatedly stated that he is among the MPs who had been raising the most number of questions.
His claims of laying concrete roads, improving ‘anganwadis,’ and building toilets fell flat as the residents of Kodanad whom The Federal spoke to were not aware of any such projects.