Anti-incumbency puts Congress and DMK on the defensive in the Arakkonam Lok Sabha constituency

The disappointment of the electorate over the failure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-II government to continue and complete the new Tindivanam-Nagari railway line and the anger of the people against the UPA-II regime over the hike in the prices of petrol, diesel and other essential commodities has resulted in a situation where the main fight appears to be between the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a constituent of the BJP front, and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), in the forthcoming elections in the Arakkonam Lok Sabha constituency in North Tamil Nadu.

The foundation for the Tindivanam-Nagari railway line — which was intended to provide a link to unconnected places like Vandavasi, Cheyyar, Arni, Arcot and Ranipet to Nagari in Andhra Pradesh — was laid during the UPA-I regime, at the instance of R. Velu, then Union Minister of State for Railways, who is now re-contesting as a PMK candidate in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The Arakkonam constituency which was reorganised after the delimitation ahead of the 2009 Parliamentary elections comprises the Assembly segments of Arakkonam, Ranipet, Sholinghur, Arcot and Katpadi in Vellore district, and the Tiruttani Assembly segment in neighbouring Tiruvallur district. Interactions with a cross-section of the electorate revealed the voters’ anger in Arcot, Ranipet and Sholinghur segments was directed at the neglect of the Tindivanam-Nagari line by the UPA-II government, and the failure of the sitting MP, S. Jagathrakshakan of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), to continue and complete the vital project. At present, the only portion of the project that has been taken up is the railway bridge across the Palar River in Arcot.

“We want to elect a person who will complete the project,” said a voter in Ranipet. Another voter in Ranipet said that any MP or government should take steps to continue and complete the projects started by the previous government since heavy public money has been involved in it. “I am sure Mr. Velu would complete it if he gets elected,” said a Sholinghur voter. “I will expedite the project if I get elected,” R. Velu told The Hindu.

The people of Arakkonam constituency also want the Central government to take up the river-link project as a permanent solution to the water scarcity in the constituency. It is some people’s belief that the project would be implemented if the BJP was to be elected to power, since the party had initiated it during the earlier 1999-2004 NDA regime.

The industrial sickness in Ranipet, and the absence of industries leading to unemployment among educated youth in Katpadi are factors which would sway the voters in those segments.

The AIADMK has fielded G. Hari, an advocate and former Tiruttani MLA, while the DMK has fielded N.R. Ilango, the party’s advocate and son of R.N. Ranganathan, former MLA. ‘Naesey’ R. Rajesh, son of ‘Naesey’ J. Ramachandran, founder president of NAESEY (National Association for Educated Self-Employed Youth) is contesting on behalf of the Congress. S. Rajesh of Aam Adhmi Party is also in the fray.

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