Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency will witness a fierce fight between controversial national secretary of the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), H Raja on behalf of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance and Karti Chidambaram of Congress of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alliance. This is one of the two constituencies where the BJP and Congress are fighting against each other.
The constituency has been won by Congress seven times; while DMK, AIADMK and Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) have won twice each since the constituency came into existence in the year 1967. All four assembly segments in Sivaganga district and two assembly segments from the nearby Pudukottai district form the Sivaganga LS constituency.
The former Union finance minister P Chidambaram has represented the constituency seven times and has lost only once in 1999 as a TMC candidate.
CONTROVERSY OVER SELECTION OF CANDIDATES
The selection of candidates of both the parties has evoked concerns from the party cadres and the general public alike. The BJP candidate H. Raja is known for his hardcore Hindutva style of politics in the state and is no stranger to controversies. The derogatory comments made about the late Tamil reformist Thanthai Periyar and religious minorities, reported remarks about the Madras high court during an altercation with the Tamil Nadu police, comments against K Kanimozhi, his comments on women of all ages being permitted by the Supreme court to visit Sabarimala, to quote a few, have received the ire of the public.
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The Congress party which has a history of factionalism amongst the ranks fuelled it further by allocating the seat to the son of former finance minister P Chidambaram. The announcement of candidature of Karti Chidambaram was delayed due to reported objection of former union minister E M Sudarshana Nachiappan (who defeated P Chidambaram in 1999). Also the string of cases against Karti Chidambaram including the Aircel -Maxis case and the INX media case has even made the party sympathisers wary.
AGRICULTURAL CRISIS AND WATER SCARCITY STILL RAMPANT
The district is considered to be one of the most backward in the state. Agriculture, especially paddy cultivation, sugarcane, cotton, chilly and groundnut, is the main source of livelihood. The falling prices and rising expenses have pushed the farmers deep into trouble. Improper supply and poor water management has added to the woes of the farmers. Sugarcane cultivation has come down due to low Minimum Support Price (MSP) fixed and non payment of dues to farmers by the sugar mills. The crop insurance scheme introduced by the Modi- led BJP government with much publicity has done no good to the farmers.
The encroachments in the water canals have blocked the rain water from reaching a number of ponds, small dams and check dams, thus, further reducing the availability of water for irrigation. Most of these storage bodies have not been desilted by the state government for several decades.
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The people are depending on these tanks for their drinking water needs. With the state administration failing miserably in providing protected and purified drinking water to the people, they are forced to fence the water bodies to prevent the animals from using it. But this does not prevent the water from getting polluted. The decreasing ground water table is also attributed to the huge presence of ‘Seemai karuvelam’ (prosopis juliflora) around the water bodies, which once was a major source of firewood.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE FACILITATE MIGRATION
There are very limited employment opportunities in the constituency despite having plenty of possibilities for establishing industries. Tamil Nadu Mineral Limited (TAMIN) near Sivaganga is a Tamil Nadu government enterprise involved in exploring, mining and marketing of granite, limestone and graphite products. The demand for expansion of this industry is long pending, even though the raw materials including graphite are available in abundance. The lack of infrastructure including roads, rail connectivity, and electricity have acted as the stumbling blocks for industrial developments.
The absence of small and medium enterprises also facilitate the migration of youth in search of jobs. The incentives and subsidies for starting this type of industries have failed to attract investments due to the absence of infrastructure. Most of the youth have relocated to metro cities and even foreign countries as daily wage and contract workers. The much hyped schemes of the Narendra Modi government like Make in India or Start up India has done no good to these rural areas.
NO CAKE WALK FOR THE CONGRESS
The political fight between the BJP and Congress has intensified as the campaign has taken off after a sluggish start. P Chidambaram has stayed put in the constituency to ensure his son’s victory. The people of the constituency are not very happy by his performance as the member of the constituency and as a union minister for decades. The Hindu vote bank targeted by the BJP may split by the presence of TTV Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) as he wields considerable influence among the Mukkulathor community in the southern and central districts including Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga, Theni and Dindigal.
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