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Coimbatore: No one cares about mill workers

By Ganesh Nadar in Coimbatore
May 02, 2006 10:27 IST
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It is the fastest growing city in Tamil Nadu. It is called the Manchester of the south. Like the Manchester of the north, Mumbai, in Coimbatore too mills are closing down.

Again, like Mumbai, no major party is concerned with the plight of the mill workers. Here VRS is called CRS (compulsory retirement scheme). Mill workers are disillusioned with both the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Apart from textiles, Coimbatore is also known for its motors and pumps industry. There are 30 engineering colleges in and near Coimbatore. There are many Keralites here.

It's a large district with as many as 14 assembly constituencies. 149 candidates are in the fray out of which only 10 are women. The DMK has put up four women, the ADMK, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and the Congress one each. The rest are independent candidates.

There are three current ministers in the fray. This makes the contest fiercer as a minister does not like to lose. Likewise beating a minister adds to your prestige later. Recognising campaigning ministers is very easy. They have more policemen with them.

Like the rest of the cities in Tamil Nadu, in Coimbatore too there are no posters, banners or graffitti on the wall. What happens to all the money saved from this activity? "It comes into the hands of canvassing party workers," says a DMK union level leader gleefully. In no election before this have we got so much money to spend, he adds happily.

"Traders will never vote for the DMK," says a petty shop owner. This is because according to him they come asking for donation at the drop of the hat. Any death, any leader visiting, any temple or religious festival is enough reason for them to come asking for money, he says in disgust.

In this again the city resembles Mumbai where the Shiv Sena is famous for asking donations from traders.

Selvi is a woman's wing leader of the DMK. She is a poor lady. She says that film stars attract crowds, but they cannot assure votes. She feels that two per cent of the people crowding to see film stars might actually vote for the party the star represents.

Sulur is 30 km from the city. Its is part of the Palladam assembly area. Here, the ADMK is taking on the DMK directly. Thus, the contest is fierce. A DMK worker declares with great feeling, "We don't care if the ADMK wins 100 seats, but the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam must not win a single seat." Apparently Vaiko's changing sides just before the elections hasn't gone down well with the cadre.

In Sulur some enthusiastic ADMK men had painted the party symbol on the road. Wonder what diehard MGR fans would say about people walking all over their symbol. As it is they always call their two leaves' symbol MGR's gift to the party. MGR chose this symbol after he walked out of the DMK.

The ruling party relies a lot on the reports of the intelligence wing of the police. One sub inspector from this wing said, "We regularly send reports on the strengths and weakness of the ruling party in every area." He says the ruling party acts fast when they point out any area as weak. Ministers immediately talk to their minions in that area. Money and promises pour in immediately.

Just after the Coimbatore bomb blast, the Bharatiya Janata Party had won a parliamentary election in Coimbatore. But in this election they are not in the picture.

"Once they came to power they forgot the Ram temple, they forgot their ideals, they became as corrupt as the Congress," said a disgusted voter.

A middle aged voter feels the DMK's anouncement of a free TV has backfired. People are laughing, he says. "Instead, if Karunanidhi had announced a free computer for every Standard XII student it would have worked, people would have taken him seriously," he declared.

The DMDK is contesting in Coimbatore. They hope to get 5,000 to 10,000 votes in every assembly. This may seem small as each constituency has around 2 lakh voters on an average. This election is being contested very closely. Many feel that it's the closest election since 1967 when the Congress was shown the door by the DMK.

The ADMK is working on the strength of its tsunami work and flood relief, which was appreciated by all. The DMK is working with a kind of desperation. A desperation which comes from the fact that they don't want to spend another five years in the wilderness.

While the DMK is talking about the strength of its alliance and the voter share percentage of its allies, the ADMK is singing a different song. For them Amma's mass appeal surpasses all of them.

Victory margins in this election will be between 5,000 to 10,000 votes, say most observers. So Vijayakanth's party becomes very important. This party is slated to get 5,000 to 10,000 votes. What people want to know is whose votes will Vijayakanth cut into? That party will lose.

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Ganesh Nadar in Coimbatore