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Unemployment main issue in Coimbatore

May 05, 2004 18:23 IST

The breakdown of the old economy and the unemployment caused by closure of textile mills and industries is the main issue in Coimbatore, which voted the Bharatiya Janata Party with a vengeance in the 1999 Lok Sabha polls in the wake of a series of bomb blasts.

While BJP candidate C P Radhakrishnan, seeking a third term in a row, cautions the electorate on the fate of industries and labour unrest if the Left parties are elected, Communist Party of India candidate K Subbarayan blames the economic and exim policies of the National Democratic Alliance government for the industrial crisis.

Victory from this constituency is a prestige issue for the BJP, since it has fielded its state party chief, who, in alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, won by a margin of 150,000 votes over his Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam rival in 1998. He again won in 1999 with the support of the DMK, but with a reduced margin of 55,000 votes against CPI state secretary R Nallakkannu.

With the combination taking a turnaround, the BJP, devoid of any communal card, now depends on its "charismatic" Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the development plank, as most of the over 1.5 million electorate appear to be "displeased" with the AIADMK's three-year rule.

Both Radhakrishnan and Subbarayan, a former MLA, hail from nearby Tirupur, which has 450,000 voters, a majority of whom are directly or indirectly involved in the hosiery and knitwear industry.

There are six assembly segments in the constituency. Singanallur (363,000), Coimbatore west (140,000), Coimbatore East (150,000), Perur (307,000), Palladam (240,000) and Tirupur (450,000). The CPI and the Congress have three MLAs, while the remaining seats are held by the ruling AIADMK.

Voters in five constituencies, barring Tirupur, are almost equally "committed" to the respective major parties like the DMK, the AIADMK, the Congress and Left parties. The candidates pin their hopes on garnering as many votes as possible from Tirupur.

There is widespread displeasure among voters towards the AIADMK for its "failure" to take steps to solve the acute drinking water problem and provide relief to drought-affected areas in various parts of the Coimbatore district.

A clear indication of what is in store can be gauged by the taking to task of the ruling party MLA, representing Perur constituency, by the residents over the water crisis when he approached them, seeking votes for Radhakrishnan.

Though star campaigners like Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, BJP chief M Venkaiah Naidu, actress Vijayashanthi and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa undertook whirlwind tours of the constituency, they could not make any lasting impact on the voters.

On the other hand, opposition stalwarts like DMK chief Karunanidhi and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko have managed to attract large crowds, indicating a "favourable" situation for the Democratic Progressive Alliance candidate, Subbarayan.

Moreover, almost all trade unions, with their large workforce, have put their lot behind Subbarayan and are working overtime for his success in the industrial belts of Tirupur and Coimbatore.

The DMK-BJP alliance had secured 49.1 per cent of votes, while the AIADMK-CPI-TMC-CPI(M) combine got 43.1 per cent votes in the 1999 general election.

However, the situation saw a reversal in the 2001 assembly elections, when the AIADMK got 54.6 per cent votes as against 37.4 per cent secured by the DMK combine.

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