Fight in the delta

Print edition : May 02, 2014

THE central region of Tamil Nadu, where both the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and its arch rival, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), are equally poised, has always been an interesting electoral battleground. The two major Dravidian parties are straining every nerve to strengthen their hold over the six Lok Sabha constituencies (Mayiladuthurai, Tiruchirapalli, Karur, Perambalur, Nagapattinam (Scheduled Caste) and Thanjavur) spread over the districts of Tiruchirapalli, Karur, Perambalur, Pudukkottai, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam.

Barring Mayiladuthurai, which has been allotted to the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) in an electoral understanding, the DMK has fielded its candidates in the remaining constituencies.

In 2009, the DMK and the AIADMK locked horns in Karur and Perambalur. In Tiruchirapalli and Mayiladuthurai, the fight was essentially between the AIADMK and the Congress. The DMK took on the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), both electoral allies of the AIADMK then, in Nagapattinam and Thanjavur respectively.

The AIADMK won the Tiruchirapalli, Karur and Mayiladuthurai seats while Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Perambalur went to the DMK.

The DMK and its ally, the Congress, polled more votes than the AIADMK and its allies in 22 of the 36 Assembly segments. But a reversal of this trend was witnessed in the 2011 Assembly elections. The AIADMK and its allies won 29 Assembly seats while the DMK-led front won only seven seats.

Having failed to renew their electoral ties with their 2009 allies, the AIADMK and the DMK have to walk the extra mile this time in view of the fact that the Congress and the Left parties have a significant presence in these constituencies.

The nomination of former Union Minister T.R. Baalu, who has migrated from Sriperumbudur, in Thanjavur in place of five-time winner and former Union Minister S.S. Palanimanickam, has created ripples in the DMK. In certain pockets the party is also facing factionalism. Both the DMK and the AIADMK are focussing on issues pertaining to the predominantly rural or semi-urban region. One of the most contentious issues in the delta region is the failure to establish the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulatory Authority despite notification of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in the Gazette on February 19, 2013. Claiming credit for the gazette notification, the AIADMK and the DMK have promised to work for the expeditious setting up of these regulatory bodies.

The DMK has been in a tight spot over the controversial coalbed methane project proposed to be implemented in Tiruvarur and Thanjavur districts. The AIADMK has accused the DMK of resorting to “doublespeak” on the issue, as it was during the DMK regime that a memorandum of understanding was reached with a private company to execute the project.

During her election campaign in the region, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa observed that the project, if implemented, would turn the rice bowl of the State into a desert and affect the livelihood of farmers. She pointed out that her government had put the project on hold.

Both parties have conveniently avoided burning issues such as the scarcity of drinking water, the fodder crunch, the reckless sand quarrying in the Cauvery riverbed, and pollution caused by the bleaching and dyeing units along the banks of the Amaravathi, a tributary of the Cauvery, in Karur. The two parties blame each other for the acute power crisis. Not only the farm sector in the borewell-irrigated areas in the delta but also the small and medium industries, which depend on Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited in Tiruchirapalli, and the automobile bodybuilding units in Karur have borne the brunt of the unprecedented power cuts.

S. Dorairaj

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