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Thoothukudi: Sterlite, lack of jobs are dominant themes

TE Raja Simhan Thoothukudi | Updated on April 05, 2019 Published on April 05, 2019

DMK leader Kanimozhi   -  THE HINDU

Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, contesting direct elections for the first time, is considered to be a front-runner, thanks to the party’s loyal voter base

Ten months have gone by, but the Sterlite controversy refuses to die down in the coastal town of Thoothukudi in southern Tamil Nadu. The constituency will see a face-off between two star women candidates — DMK’s Kanimozhi (daughter of late DMK President M Karunanidhi) and BJP State president Tamilisai Soundararajan.

There is likely to be heavy polarisation of votes, especially among the strong Nadar community (Hindu Nadars and Christian Nadars) considering that three candidates - Tamilisai Soundarrajan, TPS Pon Kumaran of Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam and M Bhuvaneswaran of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam headed by TTV Dhinakaran - belong to this highly influential community. Kanimozhi's mother also belongs to the Nadar community.

The polarisation could make it tough for Tamilisai Soundararajan due to various factors including a general lack of development in Thoothukudi town and the manner in which the State government handled the Sterlite issue.

Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, contesting direct elections for the first time, is considered to be a front-runner, thanks to the party’s loyal voter base.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, DMK’s SR Jeyadurai beat AIADMK’s Cynthia Pandian by nearly 80,000 votes.

Fortunes were reversed in 2014, when the AIADMK swept the State by winning 37 of the total 39 seats with its current allies — the BJP and the PMK winning one each. AIADMK’s Thoothukudi candidate J Jeyasingh Thiyagaraj Natterjee beat P Jegan of the DMK by a margin of 1.2 lakh votes.

This time, the DMK and the Congress combine could consolidate their votes but voters expect the winning margin to be narrow considering the polarisation.

Candidates of smaller parties being Nadars could make all the difference between the winner and the loser, said N Veerababu, a tea shop owner in Thoothukudi.

In the temple town of Tiruchendur, the AIADMK-BJP-PMK combine has an upper hand. “Modi has done good for the country. We should give him another chance,” said Kalyana Pillai, an auto driver.

Anti-incumbency

One of the biggest complaints among voters is that they have not seen the sitting MP. “I don’t even know his name,” said Mohammed Sulaiman, an employee in a tea shop in Thoothukudi town. The AIADMK has a good support base in Thoothukudi but the present MP failed to take care of the constituency. “I am an AIADMK loyalist but will vote for the DMK this time,” he added. Lack of development and jobs remain the two biggest issues in Thoothukudi.

What they promise

Small vendors and transporters are the worst affected. “I am left jobless for the last eight months,” said V Murugaraj, a truck driver.

Both the women candidates have promised to improve the industrial climate.

Kanimozhi said she will take efforts to have a rocket launching centre at Kulasekarapattinam. She also promised to make Thoothukudi airport an international airport.

Tamilisai Soundararajan said she is preparing a vision document for the constituency.

Published on April 05, 2019
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