The Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency is set to witness a battle between the national parties. The two former MPs, P.R. Natarajan of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] on behalf of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam alliance is fighting against C.P. Radhakrishnan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on behalf of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance. Both of them fought unsuccessfully against the AIADMK, which contested for the first time from the constituency in the 2014 general elections. The constituency has traditionally voted in favour of the national parties 13 times out of the 18 elections held so far (including by-elections). The Congress have won six times, CPI five times, CPI(M), BJP and the regional party, DMK, have won two times each.
‘Manchester of South’ Crushed by Demonetisation and GST
Coimbatore, known as the ‘Manchester of South India’ has been under severe stress after the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST). The city is home to a variety of manufacturing industries including wet grinders, motor pumps, power looms, and foundry among others. Demonetisation had severely impacted the industries in the area, as cash crunch became a bane to the industry. Doing business also became tough with limited currency circulation. Casual and migrant labourers who were in need of cash had to spend hours standing in queue to withdraw their hard earned money.
When the industry was limping back to normalcy, implementation of an ill-planned GST literally became a deadly blow. The small and medium scale industries which carry out the menial jobs have suffered a lot due to GST. The companies in the industry are forced to register for GST since the companies to which they supply goods need GST bills. The government of Tamil Nadu reported that around 50% of the small and medium scale industries were closed down over the state in a single year after GST was implemented. Coimbatore, being an industrial hub lost around 40% of the industries and lost lakhs of jobs. These industries demand that the GST on jobs should be eliminated. They rightfully expect tax to be levied only on finished goods to overcome the crisis.
The ‘Pump City’, as Coimbatore is known as, produces 50% of the motor pumps in the country. The small and medium industries involved were forced to shut down due to lack of demand from larger companies post GST. Large industries have scaled down their production and have become small scale industries. Small and medium scale entrepreneurs have turned into employees. The increase in prices of raw materials like steel, has added to the woes of these industries. They continue to raise the demand of reducing the cost of raw materials and exemption from GST. Their demands are yet to be considered even as the general elections are hardly a month away.
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Privatisation of Water Supply in the Name of Smart City
The city was full of joy and expectation, when it was named in the list of smart cities. But, the project has made little progress since the announcement was made. Only 7 of the total 23 projects as part of the smart city mission have been completed. What came as a rude shock to the people was the privatisation of water supply in the corporation area, even when there was no local body administration. Political parties barring AIADMK and BJP have strongly protested against this move. The water supply has been handed over to Suez, a French multinational company for 26 years at a cost of Rs 2,961 crore. This is the biggest deal Suez has obtained in India so far. The privatisation of water resources has become a part of government policies favouring the corporate companies and forcing the general public to pay heavily for this basic need.
Pollachi Sexual Abuse Case
The sexual abuse case in Pollachi, the second largest city in Coimbatore district, has send shock waves all over the state. Reportedly, hundreds of college and school going girls were harassed, video graphed and threatened by a group of youth in the area. The lack of political will of the ruling AIADMK in taking action against the culprits have not gone well with the people. The people involved in the heinous act reportedly have political connections with the ruling party. One of the accused has been expelled from the party after the crime was exposed. A human chain organised, seeking action against the gang in Pollachi town by the All India Democratic Women’s Association, was boycotted by AIADMK and their alliance partners BJP, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK).
Also Read: Protests Break Out in TN Following Pollachi Sexual Harassment Case
Hate Politics of the Sangh
The Sangh Parivar outfits, Hindu Munnani and Hindu Makkal Katchi led by the BJP and RSS have succeeded in communalising the murders of their leaders, even if they were due to personal issues. Couple of years ago, the city saw a string of violent activities like burning of police vehicles, burning and looting of shops, during the death procession of a Hindu Munnani activist. Even though the identity of the killers was unknown immediately, establishments of minority people were attacked and ransacked. The city which was once peaceful, has become a host to communal tensions because of the activities of fundamentalist groups belonging to majority and minority religions. The people of the city are longing for peace and harmony to exist.
The Deciding Factors
The impacts of demonetisation and GST have dealt a severe blow to the district as a whole and are set to make an impact in the elections. With the CPI(M) forging a strong alliance headed by the DMK in which a major regional player Kongu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) is also a part, the poll arithmetic is against the BJP, coupled with the fact that the AIADMK-BJP combine has to overcome the double incumbency factor.
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