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What Manchester of south India wants from its MP

By N V Maller in Coimbatore
May 03, 2009 16:28 IST
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Industries languishing over frequent power cuts in Coimbatore, the textile hub of Tamil Nadu also known as the 'Manchester of South India', have one common demand to all political parties in this Lok Sabha election -- 'Give us power, we will give you power'.

Frequent power cuts which rendered thousands jobless and closure of most small-scale units, mainly concentrating on making pumps and motors has become a major poll issue in this Lok Sabha constituency, where former Union Minister and Congress nominee R Prabhu is locked in multi-cornered contest.

Prabhu, himself an industrialist, had shifted from neighbouring Nilgiris from where he won five times. Besides promising voters to raise his voice in Parliament over lack of infrastructure, he has also been highlighting his 'achievements' as MP from Nilgiris, after it became a reserved seat.

Prabhu is pitted against CPI-M's P R Natarajan, a trade union leader and BJP state Secretary G K S Selvakumar, all debutants in this constituency.

However, the entry of a new caste-based outfit, Kongunadu Munnetra Peravai in the field, is sending shivers down the spine of major contenders -- Congress, CPI-M and BJP, with large turnout of women voters attending their meetings.

There are more than 50,000 large, micro and small industries, including those making pumps and motors, foundries, engineering and textiles in the city.

Industrialists say they are sore over the region being neglected, despite providing more than Rs 35,000 crore as foreign exchange.

While R Pandian is the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam candidate, Kongunadu Munnetra Peravai has fielded its General Secretary, Easwaran. There is a Bahujan Samaj Party fielded K Ramasubramanian, along with 16 others.

The constituency caught the attention of the world after the serial blasts during the visit of BJP leader L K Advani for campaigning for the 1998 Lok Sabha elections.

The campaign has shifted gears on the development plank, with candidates having no time to describe rivals' failures or party ideologies.

All sections of society are now demanding quality infrastructure, which was not commensurate with the abnormal growth of the constituency in the last 15 years, according to industrial bodies like local chapter of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, CII, Southern India Mills' Association and the South India Engineering and Manufacturing Association.

More air and train connectivity, flyovers and ring roads and approach roads to ease traffic congestion, more water facilities, both for drinking and irrigation are the major demands of the region.

Apart from infrastructure and power, political parties are facing a major demand from the farming community, which has a substantial presence, for permitting toddy tapping and selling.

Though farmers have started selling toddy in the region, they want the two decade ban to be lifted and consider toddy a health drink, which would help raise their economic status.

The opposition from Congress, particularly state President K V Thangkabalu, attracted the wrath of the Toddy movement, which has vowed to defeat party candidates in the hustings.

All major parties have favoured toddy tapping. The recent announcement of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Jayalalithaa to appoint a committee to look into the issue if voted to power prompted Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President M Karunanidhi to write in the party organ that his government may consider the demand of coconut and palm growers.

Prabhu -- who is contesting the seat his father once won -- the three-decade experience in Parliament and also as minister would come in handy for him to bring about the required infrastructure development in the city.

In close relation with Congress mayor and DMK Minister from the city, he would be able to solve many problems confronting people, particularly of drinking water and underground drainage, Prabhu said.

As far as Natarajan was concerned, he said he would take up the cause of small industries with the aim of protecting the working class.

"If a Third Front government is installed at the Centre after the elections, I will use my office to solve almost all the problems," he says.

However, the tenure of sitting CPI MP, K Subbarayan has not pleased the public, who refuse to buy his promises of loans at four per cent interest and cold storage for farmers.

BJP has now shifted its plank from Hindu vote bank to development works like implementation of drinking water schemes and providing six-lane highways, under the leadership of Advani, its Prime Ministerial candidate.

A gymnast and sportsman of repute, Selvakumar wants to establish more stadiums and parks in and around the city.

Easwaran of KMP says that the party would demand a separate state for the Western region of Tamil Nadu, comprising 12 districts, if political parties continue to neglect the region.

The very purpose of floating the party was keeping in mind the 'negligence' by political parties in developing the region, Easwaran says.

AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa is campaigning in a few constituencies in the region. But leaders of Congress, Left Parties and BJP are yet to hit the campaign trial.

L K Advani, Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj from BJP, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury from CPI-M, D Raja of CPI are expected to campaign for the AIADMK front.

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N V Maller in Coimbatore
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