People yearn for a new district to address growth issues

It is the fond hope of the electorate here that only when Kallakurichi, one of the most backward regions in Tamil Nadu, becomes a separate district, it can be put on the growth path with better basic amenities and more investments in infrastructure development.

Though the political parties and their candidates have been drumming up support for this demand earlier and in this campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, no firm commitment is forthcoming from the rulers as yet.

Sandwiched between Villupuram and Salem districts, Kallakurichi Parliamentary constituency, bound by the Western Ghats, boasts of two hill stations – Yercaud and Kalvarayan hills. For the most part, the constituency remains agricultural and pastoral and hence at the mercy of the rain God. Hundreds of people move out if the Monsoon fails.

The constituency falls behind in development as it woefully lacks basic amenities and infrastructure. The hill tribes are facing great hardship in getting medical care, education, ‘patta’ (land titles) and even community certificates.

Though Yercaud, known as ‘Poor Man’s Ooty’, and the Kalvarayan Hills with their idyllic surroundings hold out the promise to emerge as major tourist destinations, official apathy has prevented their transformation into thriving tourist destinations.

Even as 60 per cent of Kallakurichi’s rice mills have closed down following repeated crop failures and aggravating joblessness among the youth, this segment earlier formed part of the Rasipuram Lok Sabha constituency.

After delimitation in 2008, the Kallakurichi constituency came into being. It comprises six Assembly segments of —Kallakurichi (Reserve), Rishivandhiyam and Sankarapuram in Villupuram district, and, Athur (Reserve), Gengavalli (Reserve) and Yercaud (Reserve) in Salem district.

The constituency is basically witnessing a triangular contest between Dr K. Kamaraj of the AIADMK, Pon. R. Manimaran of the DMK, and Dr. V.P. Eswaran of the DMDK. Besides them, R. Devadas of the Congress, K. Mohammad Yasin of the Aam Aadmi Party, S. Sakthivel of the Bahujan Samaj Party and 16 Independents are in the fray.

Going by the 2009 poll performance, the present DMDK and PMK combine (part of the NDA) seems formidable. In the previous election, K. Dhanraj of the PMK (then part of AIADMK alliance) polled 2,54,762 votes and L. Sudheesh of the DMDK and close kin of its actor-founder Vijayakant, got 1,32,126 votes. They both totalled 3,86,888 votes, more than the 2009 winner, DMK’s Adhi Sankar who polled 3,63,601 votes.

However, if DMDK and PMK get bogged down by mutual suspicion and votes do not get transferred to the DMDK nominee in the race, Kallakurichi could be anybody’s game, say political observers here.

The AIADMK seems to have an edge, as the sitting DMK MP, Adhi Sankar’s performance does not ring a bell with the voters. On the other hand, the DMK is banking on Dalit and Muslim votes.

The Congress candidate Mr. Devadas, fighting a lonely battle, has to surmount several hurdles to muster voters’ support. The party flaunts the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, one of its flagships programmes, to garner votes. In the absence of any major swing factor, it is still a guessing game in Kallakurichi.