Unresolved issues are dime a dozen in Nagapattinam (SC) Lok Sabha constituency that is set to witness what political observers describe as a cliff-hanger of a contest between former MP M. Selvaraj fielded by Communist Party of India in the DMK-led front and Thazhai M. Saravanan of the AIADMK.
The candidate fielded by AMMK T. Sengodi is expected to corner a sizeable number of voters, mostly cutting into the AIADMK base in this constituency where several areas bore the brunt of Cyclone Gaja. V. Anitha of BSP, K. Guruviah of Makkal Needhi Maiyam, and P. Malathi of Naam Tamizhar Katchi are among the other candidates.
Shortage of water for irrigation in tail-end areas, the on-going efforts of the Central and State governments for hydrocarbon exploration in areas scattered in Vedaranyam and Nannilam, opposition of fisher community to the Centre’s ambitious Sagarmala project to develop harbours, lack of perceptible response by the Indian Navy to the excesses committed on fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, absence of eco-system for value-addition of sea-food products, shortcomings in distribution of relief materials to people affected by Cyclone Gaja, joblessness of agricultural labourers and their migration to Tiruppur and Coimbatore for livelihood constitute the main problems in the Lok Sabha constituency.
The top contenders are vying with one another to drive home their promise to declare the constituency a Protected Agriculture Zone in the delta region. But not many in this tail-end of the Cauvery delta seem to take the promise seriously.
The mood of the electorate has not changed much after the whirlwind campaign of AIADMK Coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami who held out Cauvery-Godavari linkage as a main promise in his speeches. The people are not happy over the pace of distribution of relief after the Gaja cyclone that battered several areas in the Serudhur- Arcottuthurai, Vedaranyam-Kilvelur and Tiruthuraipoondi-Muthupet belts.
Nannilam has been the hotbed of anti-methane protests and the residents of areas surrounding of Kariapattinam are stiffly opposed to the proposal for hydrocarbon exploration.
The AIADMK candidate is facing a tough time explaining to the people that the project will not be pursued without public consent. The CPI candidate is also finding the going tough as the people are well informed that the proposal for exploration of methane and hydrocarbon in the Cauvery basin was granted by the DMK while in power.
There is also a general sense of disappointment that the CPI candidate has not secured any major project for the economic development of Nagapattinam constituency. The absence of cold storage facility is acutely felt by plantation crop farmers in Vedaranyam-Kilvelur belt. Problems in agriculture are strongly felt in Thirumarugal and Thittacheri areas where a large number of men folk have migrated to the western districts to work as labourers in industries.
Public resentment seems to be running deep over the pace of rehabilitation measures post Gaja. “In general, the response of the government departments in the aftermath of cyclone was poor,” Mahalingam of Pitchankottagam Vadapathi village in Tiruthuraipoondi Taluk said.
Fishers too are unhappy over what they term as a failure by the Central Government to form an exclusive Ministry for Fisheries. “There is a sense of disgust among the fisher community over the temerity of politicians in the ruling dispensation to seek votes after failing miserably to respond effectively to the damages wrought to livelihood by Cyclone Gaja,”said Rajendran Nattar, a representative of the fisher community said.
The voting pattern of the electorate, observers say, could be swayed by the anti-incumbency factor.