Greenhorns sweat it out in this historic constituency
A historic constituency known for its deep Congress moorings, Salem has more greenhorns in action in this general election.
Little known faces from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam will sweat it out against the son of a former Union Minister fielded by the Congress, a software engineer from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK)’s youth wing leader.
The DMDK got the seat for the steel city, which is at the edge of the OBC Vanniyars’ belt in north-west Tamil Nadu, after a long drawn bargain with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the cost of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a party banking on its Vanniyars’ vote-base.
While development issues fill the agenda for the other candidates, Mr. Sudheesh, the DMDK’s youth wing secretary and party nominee, will have to overcome the resentment in the PMK’s ranks, its chief ally as part of the State National Democratic Alliance.
The PMK is sour about not getting Salem, even as there is resentment in the BJP camp too over this issue. It is still a big question in political circles here whether the bickering in the NDA will be advantageous to Ms. Jayalalithaa, who has fielded V. Pannerselvam as the AIADMK’s nominee.
The DMK too has projected a fresh face in Ms. Umarani, while the Congress candidate Mohan Kumaramangalam, vice-president of Salem Youth Congress, is a better known face as the scion of the famous Kumaramangalam family.
The AAP’s debutant candidate, E. Satheesh Kumar, on the other hand, is striking a chord with his direct, unassuming interaction with voters, raising uncomfortable posers to the major recognised parties.
While the Congress has won seven times from Salem in alliance with either the AIADMK or the DMK, it is going alone this time in a multi-cornered contest.
In addition to the main Dravidian parties, the Congress will have to take on the DMDK as part of the BJP front and the AAP.
This makes Mr. Kumaramangalam’s task that much harder.
Perennial problems such as water scarcity, need for an export zone particularly for sago units, expansion of the Salem Steel Plant and poor infrastructure are some of the issues that keep all candidates here on the edge.
Most of the areas in the district face acute water shortage throughout the year despite surplus water of more than 30 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) released from Stanley Reservoir in Mettur, which ends up in the sea.
“The surplus water can fill up lakes and ponds and help in meeting irrigation and drinking water requirements”, says P. Arul Mani, secretary of Salem Citizens’ Welfare Association.
Salem also needs a big thrust in infrastructure development, even as its traditional strengths in areas like handlooms and silver anklet making are facing a decline.
G. Hariharan Babu, former member of the Southern Railway Advisory Board, recalls that after a long-struggle the Salem Railway Division was born. But its purpose is not fully served as no trains originate from Salem Junction.
There are not enough day-time trains to Chennai. Direct trains to southern districts will improve trading activities, he points out.
The battle for Salem, which includes the Assembly segments of Omalur, Edapadi, Veerapandi, Salem west, Salem north and Salem south, is still wide open.