Rajesh Nair

Livelihood of farmers affected by land conversion

"Successive governments have failed to address the issue"There could be at least 5,000 unemployed persons, says MLA

PONDICHERRY: The candidates in the fray for the reserved Bahour constituency have a lot of explaining to do about the growing unemployment problem in the region.

Once considered the rice bowl of the region, the conversion of fertile paddy fields for other purposes, including real estate, has affected the livelihood of many farmers in Bahour. The absence of alternative employment avenues has resulted in large-scale unemployment.

"Unemployment is the major problem that we face and successive governments have failed to address the issue," says Murugan of Adingapet. He works in a teashop.

P. Rajavelu, sitting MLA and Pudhucherry Munnetra Congress candidate, said there would be at least 5,000 unemployed persons. "In the last five years, I could get jobs to only a few. The reason was that most of the job opportunities went to the youth in the Chief Minister's constituency."

The electoral history of Bahour shows that the constituency has favoured Congress candidates only twice. In 1969, K. Krishnasamy defeated R. Thangavelu Clemenceau of the CPI by a narrow margin. In the 1987 by-election, Rajalingam defeated P. Rajavelu of the Janata Party. The Congress is trying its luck again. It has fielded M. Kandasamy, who contested on the TMC (M) ticket in the last election and lost to Mr. Rajavelu. Mr. Kandasamy, as the TMC (M) candidate, defeated Mr. Rajavelu, who was then the Congress nominee, in 1996.

Mr. Rajavelu tasted success for the first time in the 1990 elections as a Janata Party candidate, winning the seat by around 3,000 votes. He maintained the winning streak and the margin in the 1991 elections as an independent. His campaign managers are hopeful of a repeat performance this time too. They cite his personal equation with the voters and the work undertaken in the constituency using the MLA fund as factors in his favour. Also, he lost the 1996 elections only by a thin margin of 700 votes.