Rapid urbanisation, failing agriculture, pollution caused to Bhavani and Cauvery rivers and their channels by dyeing units, and shortage of clean drinking water are the pivotal issues that confront Erode Lok Sabha constituency, created in delimitation exercise before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls with these six Assembly segments: Erode (East), Erode (West) and Modakurichi in Erode district, Kumarapalayam in Namakkal district and Dharapuram and Kangayam in Tirupur district.

Urban voters are limited to Erode (East) and Erode (West), where the textile sector drives the economy. In villages, particularly rural parts adjoining urban pockets, farmers find it logical to convert their agricultural holdings into housing plots since the returns are dwindling.

Farmers in the Lower Bhavani Project ayacut area are disappointed over not being provided sufficient water from the Bhavani Sagar Dam for cultivation. According to C. Nallasamy, president of Lower Bhavani Farmers’ Welfare Association, the farmers are disappointed with the Public Works Department as the directives of the State government and the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal were not being followed. The people’s representatives in the region owe a reply to the farming community for not ensuring the required water for cultivation, he said.

Voters in Erode, Kangayam and Dharapuram would be keenly looking at what the candidates have to say about the long-pending Erode-Palani rail project, the demand for which has been there for a century, according to C. S. Gowthaman, member, Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee. In 2006, the Railway Board had made a survey and found the project feasible, but later on developed cold feet. The cost for laying the 91-km track has been escalating steadily and now it is estimated to be in the range of Rs. 600 crore.

The people in the constituency will support a candidate capable of solving the drinking water problem and secure Central funds for infrastructure development, particularly in the transport sector, Managing Director of URC Constructions C. Devarajan said. Traffic congestion has to be addressed. Shortcomings in these aspects have become quite noticeable in Erode when compared to Coimbatore and Salem, said Mr. Devarajan.

Pollution caused by industrial effluents has been a grave problem affecting both agriculture and industrial progress. The promises made in the past by political parties for a massive project to evacuate industrial pollutants to sea through pipelines have not been kept. Nor have the elected representatives taken any concrete step for establishing common effluent treatment plants, industrialists complain.

Candidates who address these issues convincingly are expected to have an upper hand in a multi-cornered contest that Erode Lok Sabha seat is poised to witness in the 2014 polls. The sitting MP, A. Ganesha Moorthy of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), who has been retained by party leader Vaiko as the candidate for the seat, will compete with Selvakumara Chinnaiyan of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), who has held party positions here in the past, and a young face — H. Pavithravalli of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a relative newcomer to politics.

She had enrolled as a party member only three years ago. These three candidates as well as Congress candidate P. Gopi, and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contestant K.K. Kumarasamy belong to the dominant ‘Kongu Vellala Gounder’ community.

While the AIADMK candidate has been approaching the electorate projecting the State government’s achievements, with particular reference to the socio-economic impact of freebies in rural areas, Mr. Ganesha Moorthy hopes that his clean image and long-standing support to the farming community — initiatives for curbing online trading in agricultural commodities, and securing remunerative support price for sugarcane — would stand him in good stead. The Congress candidate, Mr. Gopi, who counts on his party’s traditional voter base, is also banking on large-scale support of farmers. He has opposed the proposal for concrete-lining of Lower Bhavani Project canal, as it would affect agriculture badly.

The AAP candidate intends to tilt the voting pattern with the party’s anti-corruption plank by roping in first-time voters and youth.

The party’s manifesto promises a concrete canal to evacuate effluents from dyeing and leather units in the district to the sea, aimed at garnering support of the industries here.

The DMK candidate is also wooing the first-time voters by promising to work for waiver of education loans. Ms. Pavithravalli says her election promises include establishment of a drumstick processing unit at Moolanur and a lasting solution to the industrial pollution.

A keen contest is thus on the cards, though the dynamics now indicate that the principal fight is between the AIADMK candidate Selvakumara Chinnaiyan and MDMK’s A. Ganesha Moorthy as part of the BJP-front. Nonetheless, the other three candidates are leaving no stone unturned to reach out to the voters.