Dindigul constituency: Will the comrade make inroads into the hinterland still enamoured with MGR charisma?

The Left party is popular in the industralised urban Dindigul while ‘two leaves’ of the AIADMK even minus MGR has the advantage of familiarity factor; PMK may bank on the sizable Vanniyar population 

Updated - April 11, 2024 07:16 pm IST

Published - April 11, 2024 06:23 pm IST - Dindigul

Once famous: One of the favourite poll promises is the revival of the once famous lock industry of Dindigul, through infusion of technology.

Once famous: One of the favourite poll promises is the revival of the once famous lock industry of Dindigul, through infusion of technology. | Photo Credit: File Photo

A major agrarian belt, Dindigul constituency has a rich and fertile soil cover. The red soil in Palani, Natham and Oddanchatram segments is home to coconut groves, mango and sapota orchards and vegetable farms. The red and sandy soil in Nilakottai belt is a floriculturist’s dream as acres of land are under jasmine, tube rose and marigold cultivation. The rest of the area other than Kodaikanal has black soil that is ideal for cotton cultivation.

For a long time Dindigul was known for its spinning mills due to easy availability of cotton. But, due to meagre returns for cotton, farmers have switched over to profitable crops. So, most of the mills in the Dindigul belt have fallen silent and hundreds of families that were dependent on them have lost their source of income and fallen into penury. Similar is the case with lock industry. Units that were once exporting locks to foreign countries have either shut down or have diversified into other businesses, leaving the workers jobless. With increase in population, water scarcity looms large and two years back jasmine farmers in Nilakottai had to buy water brought by tankers.

These are some of the issues that have been festering for long in the constituency. Prof. P. Ravichandran says that unlike other constituencies, caste and religion do not play a major role, especially in the Lok Sabha election. Though Dindigul has a sizable number of Vellalars, the winning candidates were mostly Mukkulathors.

The fight has always been between the two Dravidian parties. But this time the DMK has allocated the seat to its ally CPI(M) and they are contesting on the hammer, sickle and star symbol. “Though within the city, this symbol is popular as the comrades lead all protests, taking the symbol to the villages will be quite a task as their rival SDPI candidate is standing on the AIADMK’s ‘two leaves’ symbol, which is popular because of the MGR charisma,” he says.

This hitch has made DMK Ministers - I. Periyasamy and R. Sakkarapani - to go full throttle in the campaign, especially in the hinterland. The DMK is banking on R. Sachithanandam, the CPI(M) candidate’s man of the soil tag, versus SDPI candidate V.M.S. Mohammed Mubarak’s ‘outsider tag.’

In the last election, PMK’s K. Jothimuthu had come second runner up, but this time PMK has aligned with BJP and has chosen M.Thilagabama. Dindigul district has a sizable Vanniyar population of Hindus and Christians, the PMK’s vote bank. But this time PMK’s alliance with the BJP may see them losing the Christian votes.

The incumbent DMK MP, P. Velusamy, who won the 2019 election with a massive margin of 5,38,972 votes, has done nothing for the constituency is the common refrain among the local people. “He did nothing to include Dindigul into the Smart Cities Mission scheme,” says a Corporation councillor. “Had he fought for it, we would have received Rs. 100 crore from the Centre every year and along with the funds from the State we could have overhauled the rundown infrastructure,” he says.

Another activist says the funds would have helped in establishing a new bus stand on the outskirts to prevent traffic congestion in the city. The funds could have helped in waste management and in removing encroachments, he adds.

To fight this anti-incumbency factor, the DMK is betting on the split in the AIADMK and hoping that this would give them some votes. The two Ministers have nurtured their Assembly segments Athoor and Oddanchatram, respectively, and it is hoped that this would translate into votes for the CPI(M) candidate.

All the candidates, including NTK candidate Dr. Kayilai Rajan, hope to give an impetus to agriculture, value addition of farm produce, linking rivers to overcome water shortage and bringing new technology for spinning and lock industries.  

In this spectrum of broad-based promises, V. S. Veerapathiran, a social activist, says intrinsic issues that plague environmentally- sensitive zones in the constituency such as Kodaikanal are lost. “They talk of opening up Kodaikanal for more tourists but none of them address issues like how to preserve the fragile biosphere or how to improve the infrastructure without infringing into forest land,” he points out.

Be it the recent ruling by the High Court on removal of encroachments and prevention of commercial activities on girivalam path of Palani temple which has ruffled some feathers, or the grouse on absence of dedicated train service from Dindigul to Chennai, the residents hope that the next Member of Parliament is a man who would bring about the much-needed change.

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