Lok Sabha polls | A prestigious battle in Coimbatore, where BJP is betting big on its chief Annamalai

Annamalai will take on former Mayor Ganapathi P. Rajkumar of the DMK, Singai G. Ramachandran of the AIADMK, and Kalamani Jagannathan of the NTK; The BJP, which has not won on its own in this Lok Sabha constituency, is relying on its core vote bank and the popularity of Annamalai

April 04, 2024 12:38 am | Updated 01:04 pm IST - COIMBATORE

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president and the party’s Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency candidate K.Annamalai

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president and the party’s Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency candidate K.Annamalai | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

The industrially vibrant and communally sensitive Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency is witnessing a prestigious battle, with the BJP national leadership placing bets on its State president K. Annamalai, fielding him here. He is pitted against former Mayor Ganapathi P. Rajkumar, who had joined the DMK in 2020 after quitting the AIADMK; and Singai G. Ramachandran of the AIADMK. Also in the fray is the NTK’s Kalamani Jagannathan.

Traditionally an AIADMK stronghold, Coimbatore has the distinction of returning the BJP’s C.P. Radhakrishnan in 1998 and 1999 when the party was in alliance with the AIADMK and the DMK respectively. The DMK last won this seat in 1996, while in 2004 and 2019, the CPI and the CPI(M) candidates, backed by the Dravidian party, emerged victorious. The BJP, which has failed to win the seat on its own, is banking on its core vote bank and Mr. Annamalai’s popularity to emerge victorious this time. An interesting aspect of this battle is the academic profile of the prominent candidates. Mr. Annamalai and Mr. Ramachandran are alumni of the PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, and the prestigious Indian Institute of Management. Mr. Rajkumar is an alumni of the PSG College of Arts and Science and holds a postgraduate degree in journalism and mass communication, and a doctorate.

What are BJP’s chances in Coimbatore?

Mr. Ramachandran’s father, Singai Govindarajan, was once elected as a legislator from Singanallur.

During their campaign, Mr. Ramachandran and Mr. Annamalai have said they will focus on the development of Coimbatore.

On the ground, Coimbatore faces multiple challenges. The traditional manufacturing industries in the region struggle to stay competitive owing to the fluctuating and high raw material prices. The micro and cottage enterprises, numbering over 30,000 in the district and constituting a significant part of the electorate, are demanding a reduction in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on job work to 5% from the existing 12%. Rising electricity costs, too, burden industries and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

The textile, pump-set, and wet grinder manufacturing sectors are facing one of the most challenging years, and have not received the anticipated support from the Union and State governments so far. “Nearly 100 small-scale textile mills in the region were shut down in the last two years. Tamil Nadu is losing its textile competitiveness to the northern States. Power costs are high, cotton is purchased from the northern States and prices are high,” said J. Selvan, president, South India Spinners Association.

On the infrastructure front, Coimbatore “urgently needs better air and rail connectivity, and rejuvenation of waterbodies,” said Vanitha Mohan, vice-chairperson, Kongu Global Forum. For the information technology sector to develop in the region, there is a need for direct flights to other countries. The Central and State governments, and whoever is elected to represent the constituency in Parliament, should work together for airport expansion, and the betterment of the region, she said.

G. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry (Coimbatore Zone), points to the need for research facilities in cyber security, artificial intelligence and industry 4.0, among others, to support the growth of the region in the future.

Velusamy, a powerloom weaver, at Palladam said several villages were dry in the Palladam Assembly constituency. “If, for any reason, the Athikadavu scheme does not take off, we won’t even have drinking water. There has been no rain and farming activities have taken a hit.”

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