Will AIADMK retain its western fort?

dc-Cover-etln4rheja6ieoq4nlffm8dnj4-20160425063229.MediTamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa

The balmy westerly winds have mostly blown in favour of the AIADMK and the Kongu region has remained a citadel of the Two Leaves for decades.

In 2006, when DMK swept back to power too, the Coimbatore voters favoured the AIADMK and the DMK was routed in the region. Barring one constituency, the DMK lost all nine seats in Coimbatore district. And it was the mammoth crowd at  Jayalalithaa’s rally in Coimbatore in 2010 that paved the way for the AIADMK’s return to power in 2011.

Will Verdict 2016 unveil a different electoral arithmetic in western Tamil Nadu. Will the ruling AIADMK retain its western fort? A recent survey by the Dinamalar and News 7 Channel gives a surprise edge to the DMK in the Kongu region as the party is predicted to grab 33 out of the 57 seats in the western belt of Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur, Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

Over to a ground reality check:  In the industrial and traders’ hub of Coimbatore, the refrain is now lack of money flow and dip in industrial production. Though the long hours of power cuts came to an end during the Jayalalithaa regime, industrial turnover has dipped and investments have remained stagnant, feel a sizeable section of  industrialists.

“We gave a clear mandate to AIADMK due to long hours of power cuts during the DMK rule. But after AIADMK assumed power, the situation turned for worse with power cuts extending upto ten hours. Since the situation remained so for up to three years, industrial productivity dipped and thousands of workers lost their jobs,” said J. James, president of Tamil Nadu Association of Cottage and Micro Enterprises (TACT).

Since 2008, almost 50 per cent of the 50,000 micro, small and medium enterprises had to be shut down and many employers turned into casual labourers for their livelihood.

Social observers too see a perceptible change in the mood of the urban middle class and rural underclass.  “There has been little infrastructural progress during the last five years. All the major infrastructural projects from Siruvani drinking water supply to Nehru stadium, Avinashi flyover to ring road have all been implemented during the DMK regime. Though the Coimbatore voters have favoured the AIADMK largely, the party has not paid back to the voters. The urban middle class has realised it immensely,” says social activist, B. Shantha Kumar.

However, to the advantage of the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, the urban ire is not directed against her unlike in the 1996. The free rice scheme and Amma freebies have dented the anti-incumbency mood to a considerable extent. “People are angry with the party MLAs who did nothing for the constituency. That is why Amma has refused ticket for most of the sitting MLAs,” admits a senior AIADMK leader in Coimbatore.

In the coconut town of  Pollachi, a traditional AIADMK stronghold, the farmers are upset with falling prices of coconuts and the Avinashi-Athikadavu water scheme remaining a non-starter.

However, observers say that the electoral verdict will hinge on AIADMK manifesto. If Amma offers attractive freebies like a bike and a fridge, that could turn out to be a game-changer. For a bike will woo the first time voters and the refrigerator could keep the women voters cool. “If they offer a bike, why not? My son is pestering me for a bike,” says Banumathi a Dalit domestic help, who is a member of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi in Ganapathy area of Coimbatore.

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