Facing its second Lok Sabha polls this year, the Tuticorin constituency, which came into being in 2009 in place of erstwhile Tiruchendur constituency after the delimitation exercise in 2008, is yet to rise to the expectations of its electorate, who largely depend on manufacturing activities in this historic port-town in southern Tamil Nadu.
Topping the public’s grievance list is lack of civic amenities in Tuticorin. “The long pending underground drainage project is yet to be completed. The underground works for the project extending up to 110 km under Tuticorin Municipal Corporation limits were taken up in 2007 by the ‘TWAD’ Board. It was targeted to be completed in 18 months, but still there is no sign of completion,” says M.S. Muthu, District Secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India.
Voters complain that besides narrow roads and streets in Tuticorin, causing chaos in traffic, a promised flyover by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa over the ‘VVD Junction’ on Palayamkottai Road and an integrated bus stand to help reduce traffic congestion in the town, are among projects that are yet to implemented.
The Tuticorin Parliamentary constituency comprises six Assembly segments of Tuticorin, Kovilpatti, Tiruchendur, Srivaikuntam, Vilathikulam and Ottapidaram (Reserved). Among these, drinking water scarcity looms large in Kovilpatti, where potable water supply is done only once a month, say aggrieved residents.
Drought-hit farmers are also aggrieved as they have not availed themselves of any relief assistance so far.
“We are averse to the fourth drinking water pipe line underway in Tuticorin as farm activities will be affected if huge amount of water is diverted to residents of Tuticorin Corporation,” rued Nainar Kulasekaran, a farmer. Excessive tapping of water from Tambaraparani River is also undermining farm operations. Frequent power cuts have crippled manufacturing units, particularly in the small scale sector. The trade and industry lobby here still want the ‘Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project’ to be implemented. “Tuticorin will certainly assume greater significance if this dream project is commissioned,” says T. Johnson, President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.
Despite being an industrial hub in the south, expansion of Tuticorin airport has remained a million dollar question, said Johnson. Moreover, absence of dry docking facility is a big handicap in this port town, which witnesses hectic activities of exports and imports everyday. Industrial pollution is another major cause for worry.
While Tuticorin is famous for its salt pans, A.R.A.S. Dhanabalan, secretary, Tuticorin Small Scale Salt Manufacturers Association, said minimum support price for manufactured salt was needed to revive this industry. A silver lining has been that infrastructure projects in the renamed V.O. Chidambaranar Port here are taking off.
In this socio-economic backdrop, unlike the previous election, Tuticorin, this time, is witnessing a six-cornered contest.
All the contestants are debutants for a Lok Sabha poll.
While the DMK, which won the seat in 2009 election, has fielded P. Jegan, son of N. Periyasami, DMK district secretary and former Tuticorin MLA, the AIADMK has put up J. Jeyasingh Thyagaraj Nattarji. Further, S. Joel, district secretary of MDMK, a BJP ally this time, A.P.C.V. Shanmmugam of Congress, AICC Member from Tuticorin, A. Mohanraj, district secretary of the CPI, and anti-nuke activist M. Pushparayan for Aam Aadmi Party are among the key party candidates in the fray.
The tough poll battle ahead basically looks like boiling down to a direct fight between the traditional rivals DMK and the AIADMK. Nonetheless, the “Modi factor” of late has injected a new element of unpredictability to the contest, say analysts here.