The Dindigul Lok Sabha constituency, predominantly rural based, continues to languish, thanks to lack of basic infrastructure, employment opportunities and acute drought.
Power crisis and closure of several tanneries, lock industries, and spinning mills have rendered thousands of workers jobless.
An acute water shortage, which has been haunting people since pre-Independence era, continues to this day. Failure of monsoons and unpredictable weather conditions — drought or flood — badly affect agriculture, leaving the rural economy in a mess.
Election after election, farmers in Dindigul, Oddanchatram, Natham, Athoor and Palani and floriculturists in Nilakottai Assembly segments have been demanding more infrastructure and agro-processing facilities to boost rural income. A mango processing unit at Natham, government cold storage facilities at Natham and Oddanchatram for fruits and vegetables, cooperative auction centres for sunflower, onion and cocoons, and an industrial estate at Nilakottai to process flowers and do value addition remain a pipe dream.
While several infrastructure projects cry for early completion, some of them like the Dindigul-Sabarimala new railway line remain on paper. Gauge conversion between Palani and Pollachi is also moving at snail’s pace. Palani and Kodaikanal, two major tourist attractions, struggle to handle large crowds in peak season owing to lack of sufficient infrastructure.
The Dindigul constituency comprises Athoor, Dindigul, Nilakottai, Oddanchatram, Palani and Natham Assembly segments. The AIADMK had held Dindigul seat six times in recent years and the Congress has won thrice — in 1996, 2004 and 2009. The DMK had won the seat in 1980.
In the 2014 polls, the constituency faces a five-cornered contest. All the major political parties — AIADMK, DMK, DMDK, CPI (M) and Congress — flex their muscles to test their respective strength.
Sitting MP and Congress candidate N.S.V. Chitthan is trying for a hat-trick in his favourite turf. But the battleground is different for him this time. In 2004 and 2009 polls, he had faced AIADMK with the support of the DMK’s district heavyweight I. Periasamy. Now, the same force is arrayed against him. After 1980, the DMK has now nominated the Assembly’s former Deputy Speaker S. Gandhirajan.
While the CPI (M) has fielded its district secretary, N. Pandi, the DMDK, part of the BJP-front, has named Chennai-based lawyer and debutant A. Krishnamurthy.
The AIADMK has fielded M. Udayakumar, another debutant. Among the important communities, the Mukkulathors, Goundars, Vellalars, Dalits and Christians are in good numbers here.
The 2014 polls is a litmus test for all the five key parties in the fray as each claim Dindigul to be their bastion. And unlike previous elections, all of them, including the Congress, are going it alone.
The DMDK hopes to get the NDA allies’ backing, even as DMK’s Gandhirajan is seen as a “stranger” in the party after he switched loyalties from the AIADMK. The CPI (M) is also giving a tough fight as it has retained Dindigul Assembly segment thrice with support of either the AIADMK or the DMK.
Though the arch Dravidian rivals have drawn the battle lines, the CPI (M) and DMDK will queer the pitch splitting the vote banks of the DMK in urban areas and of the AIADMK in rural areas. A wafer thin margin is likely to decide the winner in Dindigul’s close contest.