Special Correspondent

Will become a major force by 2011 Assembly polls: Eswaran

COIMBATORE: After winning more than a lakh votes in both Coimbatore and Pollachi constituencies, the Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KMK) is preparing to make major inroads in to the vote share of other parties in the 2011 Assembly elections. But, it seems to have realised that the first task on hand is removing the stigma that it is only a party of the Gounders.

In the next two years, the party wants to focus on the development needs of Coimbatore and other districts in the Kongu region of western Tamil Nadu. The KMK is happy with its show in the Lok Sabha elections, but is keen on strengthening its position in order to make it worthy of an alliance. The aim is to ensure that its strengths are be ignored by the other parties. But, as of now, its main strength is galvanising the Gounder community to caste all votes for the party. Apparently, the party feels that this is, in another way, its weakness too.

This was evident in the voting pattern in the Coimbatore constituency in the Lok Sabha elections. The party polled heavily in the Gounder-dominant Sulur and Palladam Assembly segments. Of the 1,42,271 votes polled in Sulur, KMK candidate and party general secretary E.R. Eswaran got 38,286. He got 36,558 votes out the 1,42,933 polled in Palladam.

In both the segments, he came second after the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate P.R. Natrajan, who won the Coimbatore Lok Sabha seat. Mr. Eswaran, however, overtook the Congress’ five-time MP R. Prabhu in these segments.

Sources in the rival fronts led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam admit that the KMK had cut into the vote share of both the parties largely in these segments.

In the four other segments, its scores ranged from 5,000 to 13,000 votes. Predictably, it got only 5,860 votes in Coimbatore South, out of the total 1,18,333 votes polled. Consisting mostly of city areas, this segment has a cosmopolitan set-up and also a large number of Naidus – a community Mr. Prabhu belongs to. Understandably, the Congress candidate got the highest number of votes in this segment – 46,812 – as against 42,604 by Mr. Natarajan.

Mr. Eswaran says the party has begun the groundwork for the Assembly elections. “We aim to get 18 lakh votes in this region and sent 40 MLAs to the Assembly,” he says. “We will prove our strength further in the Thondamuthur byelections.”

The party will begin welfare activities. “We have asked our office-bearers to give prizes to the first 15 rank-holders in the Plus-Two and Tenth examinations and also provide assistance for higher studies, irrespective of caste and religion,” he says. This is one of the measures the party will take to endear itself to other communities.

But, in the meanwhile, the KMK wants to work with the Government in bringing about development in Coimbatore, says Mr. Easwaran.