Voters’ morale takes a dip amid water scarcity and economic slowdown

A Congress bastion once, Karur Lok Sabha constituency occupies the geographical centre in the Tamil Nadu landscape. Comprising the Assembly segments of Vedasandur (in Dindigul district), Aravakurichi, Karur, Krishnarayapuram (Reserved) (all in Karur district), Manapparai (Tiruchi district) and Viralimalai (Pudukkottai district), the constituency is home to a large number of industries.

Karur occupies the prime place in the global home textile market, with an estimated annual business of Rs. 6,000 crore. That apart, Karur is also famous for the ‘HDPE mosquito net’ weaving industry and bus coach building industry.

Vedasandur segment has more than 60 spinning mills of varied installed capacities, employing thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled workers from the neighbourhood. Viralimalai Assembly constituency has a splash of small, medium and heavy industries in certain pockets. Aravakurichi segment has over 150 blue metal industries and quarries that cater to the demands of road-laying industry till even Karaikal in the east. Only Krishnarayapuram and Manapparai do not boast of a large number of industries or industrial clusters.

While the backward Kongu Gounders can tilt the scales in Karur, Vedasandur and Aravakurichi segments, Dalits have significant numbers in Karur, Krishnarayapuram, Manapparai, Viralimalai and Vedasandur. Backward castes are a force to reckon with in all the segments. Muslims have sway in Aravakurichi and Manapparai segments. Significantly, each of the social groups has well-established vote banks and could influence the outcome of the polls as seen earlier.

The major issue exercising the minds of the Karur electorate is the court-mandated ban on dyeing activity that has crippled home textile industry. From around 550 dyeing units a couple of years back, less than 20 are in operation now and that explains the economic stress the region is undergoing at present. People expect concrete and a truly eco-friendly solution acceptable to farmers as well.

Equally important is the widespread drinking water scarcity that gets accentuated in summer and symptomatic to all areas of the Lok Sabha constituency. The mosquito net weavers are seeking State government support for sponsored market access for their product and the global economic meltdown is threatening the surviving industries in Viralimalai, Vedasandur and Karur. Spinning mills in Vedasandur are recording dwindling profits even as labour woes soar. Farmers are keeping their fingers crossed as regards drought relief and water availability. All these issues await a solution each from the elected representatives.

Save for his truly influential work in completing the long-winding Karur-Namakkal-Salem broad gauge track work, M. Thambidurai, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) candidate who has been re-nominated for the coming election, has little to show for himself. Perhaps, he could have used his proximity to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to fashion some development in the constituency over the past five years is a common refrain in the region.

He won in 1989 and 1998 and had tasted defeat once at the hands of Congress’ Natrayan. Now, Mr. Thambidurai is facing his foe-in-friend M. Chinnasamy of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and once an AIADMK stalwart who is still having a substantial following in the region.

Both know the territory well and are well known to the electorate. Though the actor Vijayakant-led DMDK and Congress too will field their candidates, Karur looks set for a straight fight between Mr. Thambidurai and Mr. Chinnasamy of the AIADMK and DMK respectively.

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