New faces sweat it out to make inroads in Salem

Salem is perhaps the only Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu where all candidates contesting the April 24 polls are débutantes.

Salem: Salem is perhaps the only Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu where all candidates contesting the April 24 polls are débutantes.

The constituency, being held by AIADMK`s S Semmalai, shot into the limelight in the aftermath of the murder of Tamil Nadu BJP secretary `Auditor` Ramesh, a popular figure among the public, a year ago.

AIADMK holds five of the six Assembly segments in this constituency. Vanniyars form 30 to 35 percent of the vote base, followed by Dalits and a mix of Goudars, Naidus, Thevars, Chettiars and Mudaliars.
Even as BJP workers and public expected the party to contest from here before distribution of tickets to cash in on the sympathy following the murder of Ramesh coupled with Narendra Modi wave, the seat was allotted to DMDK, a key ally of the saffron party in Tamil Nadu.

This had caused some sort of resentment among workers of BJP and PMK, which also wanted to contest from here.

Though PMK leader Dr S Ramdoss had announced he would not campaign in Salem, protesting the BJP-led NDA denying the constituency to his party, his son and Dharmapuri candidate Anbumani Ramadoss campaigned for DMDK candidate L K Sudhish, its youth wing secretary and brother-in-law of party founder Vijayakant.

AIADMK has fielded V Paneerselvam, DMK Umarani, Congress Mohan Kumaramangalam and AAP E Sateesh Kumar.

Though Congress has won the seat seven times with support of the two Dravidian parties in 2009, AIADMK`s Semmalai defeated the then sitting Congress MP KV Thangkabalu, by a over 46,000 votes.
Both AIADMK and Congress are fishing in troubled waters, exploiting the perceived bickering in NDA vis a vis BJP and PMK over seat allocation.

Both BJP and PMK have said their workers are not upset about the decision to field Sudhish and want to see Modi as Prime Minister. PMK believes that if NDA comes to power Anbumani Ramadoss is sure to get a Cabinet berth.

Moreover, party workers are now happy following the latest development where DMDK came out in support of the PMK candidate in Puducherry.

The absence of DMK strongman S Veerapandi Arumugam, who passed away last year, has also put the party on the back foot.

But it hopes to cash in on the `good work` done by Arumugam, when he was agriculture minister in the DMK Cabinet and also the "failure" of the government to solve the power and drinking water problems.

Congress candidate Kumaramangalam, the son of former BJP MP and Union minister late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, is trying to cash in on the family legacy of Zamindars of Kumaramangalam of the district.

Perennial problems like acute drinking water scarcity, despite a major dam in Mettur and infrastructure bottlenecks plague the over 14.65 lakh voters, which could be disadvantageous to the ruling AIADMK and DMK, which was ruling in the last assembly term.

Voters point out that nearly 30 tmcft surplus water released from Mettur reservoir had gone waste into the sea, which could otherwise have filled up ponds and lakes in and around the area by which farmers could have irrigated their crop and also utilised it for drinking.

They are also unhappy that no trains originate from here despite having a Railway Division and there are no direct trains to Chennai and Southern districts, which would have given more impetus to trade, particularly small and medium size traders.

The district has large number of sago units, textile sector, with a large number of handloom weavers, and silver article manufacturing units, particularly anklets.

Stating that there was the need to expand the Salem Steel Plant, which is providing jobs to the locals, the Salem Citizens` Welfare Association, had demanded that political parties give a big push to infrastructure, since urban areas were congested with traffic, without proper approach roads.

With almost all star politicians of major political parties, including Modi, finishing the campaign, the battle in this constituency, where community votes play a significant role, would witness a close fight between Dravidian Parties and DMDK.