Agriculture and small industries worst hit by recession

The crippling monsoon failure, the crisis in the recession-hit fabrication industry and poor urban infrastructure are dominant concerns among voters of the Tiruchirappalli Lok Sabha constituency that straddles an emerging Tier-II city and a backward agricultural belt.

The constituency spreads over Tiruchi East, Tiruchi West, Srirangam, Tiruverumbur, Gandharvakottai (SC) and Pudukottai Assembly constituencies and has a blend of urban and rural voters.

For all its much-touted advantages of being an education hub and its central location in the State, Tiruchi is widely seen to be lagging behind other Tier-II cities in terms of infrastructure development. Despite promises, the city was not included under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

Plans to decongest the city by establishing an integrated bus stand and shifting the wholesale trade of the Gandhi Market to the outskirts have remained on paper for more than two decades.

“We have lost out on many Central government projects, including the proposed upgradation of the government hospital on a par with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Tiruchi also remains neglected in terms of rail and domestic air connectivity. We need a Member of Parliament who can lobby effectively for the city’s cause,” says M. Sekaran, president, Federation of Consumer and Welfare Organisations.

The poor monsoon over the past three years has crippled farming in rainfed and well irrigated areas in Srirangam, Gandharvakottai and Pudukottai segments.

“With wells and borewells going dry, we have not been able to raise any crop for the past two years in Manapparai area,” says R. Renganathan, district vice-president, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam.

Coconut, mango and banana crops have withered in several acres. Farmers have been forced to sell off some of their cattle owing to fodder and water shortage.

Linking of rivers and remunerative price for agricultural produce remain major demands.

“Let the government just create the irrigation infrastructure and give remunerative prices for our produce, we demand nothing else,” says P. Ayyakannu, State vice-president, Bharathiya Kisan Sangam.

Tiruchi’s claim of being a fabrication hub of the country has also come under threat in recent months.

The 400-odd fabrication units, dependent on the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, have been going through a crisis as orders have been dwindling from the public sector major.

Many small units have closed down. The industry has been seeking a push and demanding preferential treatment to the public sector major so that they could benefit in turn.

The constituency has been a favoured turf of national parties with the Congress and Communists winning four times each in 15 elections since 1957.

The BJP too has had its share of success winning twice in 1998 and 1999.

The AIADMK won the seat for the first time in 2001 by-election only to lose it to the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in 2004. The party reclaimed the seat in 2009 when P. Kumar, scraped through in a close finish. Mr. Kumar has been renominated by the party for the 2014 polls.

The DMK, which has won only once in the constituency in 1980, has entered the fray after three decades, fielding NMU Anbazhagan and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) after 1996 has put up S. Sridhar now.

The entry of the DMDK and the Congress (the latter announced Ms. Sarubala R. Thondaman, a member of the Pudukottai royal family, as its candidate on Thursday night) has thrown the field wide open for a multi-cornered fight this time around.