As a slew of long-pending demands remain unfulfilled, the electorate in the predominantly agriculture-based Perambalur Lok Sabha constituency are bracing themselves up to choose their new representative with renewed hope. This rural constituency, which used to witness a direct fight between the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), is poised for a multi-cornered contest in the 2014 election.
With the Congress and a new player in the four-year-old Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK), as a BJP ally, also entering the fray, the die has been cast for a high-pitched poll battle in this drought-prone area, where 80 per cent of the farming community is dependent on the ‘Rain God’s mercy.
While contestants have already hit the roads holding out promises and listing their achievements, the electorate have a mosaic of wish lists and pending demands to be fulfilled. Failure of monsoon in the last three years coupled with a sharp dip in groundwater table has hit hard cotton, maize and onion growers across the constituency encompassing six assembly segments spread out in Tiruchi, Karur and Perambalur districts.
While Lalgudi, Manachanallur, Musiri and Thuraiyur (Reserved) assembly segments fall within Tiruchi revenue district, Kulithalai comes under Karur district. The other reserved assembly segment is Perambalur. Farmers say their long-pending demands, including construction of Chinnamutlu dam in Perambalur district, a check dam near Thottiyam, construction of a causeway-cum-check dam across Coleroon between Kilikoodu and Thaneerpandal in Lalgudi taluk and a check dam across Aiyyaru in Thuraiyur are yet to be implemented. If these projects are carried out, it could prove a boon to farmers and increase the groundwater table, says P. Viswanathan, state president, ‘Tamizhaga Eari and Aatru Paasana Vivasayigal Sangam-Tamil Nadu’.
Further, the ambitious multi-product special economic zone project at Perambalur for which 3,000 acres of land had already been acquired a few years ago is yet to take off, says R. Raja Chidambaram, State secretary, ‘Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam’. Absence of rail connectivity in Perambalur is another demand that remains unaddressed for long.
This is despite the fact that two MPs — A. Raja and D. Napoleon — of the constituency served in the BJP-led NDA and Congress-led UPA governments, point out a cross-section of the public here.
Above all these issues, what is causing more concern to the common man in the constituency is the steep increase in the cost of food grains, edible oil and other essential commodities. Price rise is definitely an important issue which is uppermost in the mind of the electorate. This key issue would definitely reflect in the upcoming polls, asserts N. Chelladurai, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasaya Sangam. If the power cut scenario continues, it could impact the ruling AIADMK government, claims Mr. Chelladurai. There is a general discontent that the sitting DMK MP and film actor D. Napoleon, who was a Union Minister, had not visited the constituency enough after being elected in 2009.
For the DMK which tasted victory thrice in a row (1999, 2004 and 2009), the stakes are high to retain the seat. The DMK, AIADMK and the Congress have fielded candidates belonging to the Muthuraja community, a dominant group among the mix of communities in Perambalur constituency that also has sizeable numbers of Scheduled Castes/Tribes and ‘Udayars’.
Both the main Dravidian parties have fielded new faces in R.P. Marutharajaa (AIADMK) and Seemanur Prabhu (DMK) this time, while the Congress has nominated its ex-MLA M. Rajasekaran.
The maiden entry of IJK floated by SRM group of institutions founder T.R. Pachamuthu and the party candidate in the Lok Sabha polls is set to make the battle interesting. Although, the IJK contested in the 2011 Assembly polls, it forfeited deposit in the seats it fought. Contesting under the BJP-led rainbow alliance, the IJK is banking on the support of actor Vijayakant-led Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) and other allies. With multiple players in the fray, an intense contest is on the cards this time.