Lok Sabha elections | Coimbatore needs a vision for growth, says Annamalai

Watch | Annamalai: Coimbatore needs a vision for growth
| Video Credit: Shibu Narayanan

Coimbatore is more connected to the world. There are a combination of problems. Let us have a vision for Coimbatore, solve one by one (the issues).

April 08, 2024 09:12 pm | Updated April 10, 2024 10:06 am IST

With the Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency set to see a three-cornered contest, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for Coimbatore K. Annamalai spoke to The Hindu on what his plans are for the constituency, if elected an MP.

Also Read: Lok Sabha elections 2024 LIVE updates April 10th

Tamil Nadu BJP president and Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency candidate K. Annamalai during an interview with “The Hindu “ in Coimbatore.

Tamil Nadu BJP president and Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency candidate K. Annamalai during an interview with “The Hindu “ in Coimbatore. | Photo Credit: M. Periasamy

Watch | Annamalai: A person of Karunanidhi’s stature surrendered on Katchatheevu issue

This region and city are not new to you. In the last 10 years, how do you think this constituency has changed, both in terms of development and requirements?

When I campaign in rural areas, I see a bit of strain. A lot of people are coming into Coimbatore. The industrial zones here are attracting people. There are population centres like Somanur, Irugur, Arasur, etc. People say they are getting drinking water based on the 2011 census. Population is increasing in smaller centres too. The smaller areas are getting bigger. Coimbatore is a unique one even globally because it has a lot of organic clusters. There are powerlooms, foundries, etc. No other city in the world has so many organic clusters. I feel the development of the region is not in consonance with the thinking that there are so many organic clusters within us and can we do something for it.

For instance, there is a strain in the foundries, which cater to 35 % of the castings made in the country. The foundries are unable to graduate to the next level because there is no technical centre. China has 60 technical centres for its foundries. The automobile cluster does not have an industrial zone with tax incentives. The Defence corridor - Modiji can only give the Defence corridor. The State government should do a roadshow, promote it aggressively, take ownership.

The Chief Minister should be aware that for the next 10 years, the biggest growth will be in the Defence sector. How many times in the investors conference was the Defence corridor spoken about? These are matters of concern for me.

We have a cluster of educational institutions. But there is no global capability centre (GCC). So, the graduates go out. We are unable to bring Amazons, Flipkarts, and GCCs and create opportunities here. The city is growing automatically.

Why has it dropped multiple levels in Swachh Bharat ranking ? We are doing poor in solid waste management. Drinking water is a problem. Why ? We are not investing proper money into agriculture, water resources. The SIPCOT should go to dry areas or bring industries to Coimbatore that do not need much water.

The (State) government does not have a vision. I believe there is hope because Coimbatore has to be put at the centre of the table in discussions. When you have so much capability, capacity, infra, knowledge base, someone has to keep pushing Coimbatore to the centre of the table. Modiji is regional agnostic. But there has to be a voice here that will push Coimbatore there. That will be my main role.

What will be your three major priorities for Coimbatore, if elected?

Rebuild urban infrastructure to 21st Century standards, create tangible internal employment opportunities, bring global capability centres that will create jobs, and a lot of focus on environment. Coimbatore is a sensitive zone with a river and a lot of lakes.

Industries here are facing one of the worst phases in the last 20 years or so. The BJP government is in the Centre for the last 10 years. What can you do to revive the traditional industries of Coimbatore?

Let us take the case of foundries. It is the mother of all industries; 50 % to 60 % of its labour in the shopfloor are from the northern States. If they go back to their home State in five years or so, the industry here will be dead. So, there should be robotics. The problems are plenty. We have to bring vision to the table. The automobile ancillary industry needs a rethink and revival. The Defence corridor will change the face of Coimbatore. It has defence innovation hub. We have to bring big companies here that are going to other cities. All industries will be connected if the Defence units come here. Of course, software services also need to develop here. So, it has to be a cross-ministerial thinking. What I bring to the table is the ability to deliver by bringing this cross- ministerial coordination.

Coimbatore is more connected to the world. There are a combination of problems. Let us have a vision for Coimbatore, solve one by one [the issues].

You have said you are confident of 60 % vote share. What gives you this confidence in a three-cornered contest?

I am fully aware that this is a three-cornered contest. This election is unlike other elections. This is a national election. The people of Coimbatore know that Modiji will come back. And, people of Coimbatore believe that they do not want to have someone who will not have any representation [in Delhi] - they have tried this model . In 2024 they do not want to try that model. So I am saying, people of Coimbatore are thinking differently. They want to vote beyond party lines so that their problems are solved. This time, across Tamil Nadu, the vote that NDA will get is going to be beyond party lines because people want their problems to be solved.

For a common man, the problems are high cost of living, high fuel costs. How will you address that?

We are addressing it every day. A common man also understands that Modiji has reduced fuel price thrice. The refining margins of OMCs are controlled. There is fuel price hike in neighbouring countries. We are doing everything possible to control fuel prices. Our beneficiary schemes have touched a lot of people. Be it MUDRA loans or Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme, Coimbatore has benefitted a lot.

No city in the world can say there is no problem. It is, are we better to address the problems compared to others.

In the last 20 years, in every Parliamentary election, a BJP candidate contested in Coimbatore and lost. Why should a BJP candidate win now?

In the last 20 years, people gave opportunity to different political parties and saw their performance in the Parliament. The primary interest of the people of Coimbatore is, who will solve the water problem, urban expansion problem, airport expansion problem. Who will solve it [for me[) ? Can I have a problem solver ? I am saying, all my life I will be a problem solver.

That is how you will be different from the other two candidates?

I am different from others in multiple ways. The voter is smart and will think - Who has got a serious chance of coming back to power at the Centre ? Modiji. Among every one who will come back, will it be better if the ruling party’s representative wins here, who can solve issues ? Who has got a track record of solving problems at different levels ?

It is said Mr. Annamalai has caught the imagination of youngsters. So how do you think you can meet their aspirations?

The aspirations of the youngsters are high. They want immediate solutions and they are not willing to wait. Why should they wait ? It is a tall order. You have to be connected to them. I can be myself. I can be true to their aspirations, keep representing their interests and keep sharing a vision with them and growing with them.

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