Salem: EPS’ pride and Stalin’s hope

The poll data from 1952 to 2019 show that the Congress party enjoys an upper hand in the constituency which it has won seven times, either on its own or as part of an alliance.
Party cadres campaigning in Salem.
Party cadres campaigning in Salem.

SALEM: The lyrics of a super hit Tamil song ‘Mambazhama Mambazham’ told us that the city of Salem is known for its Malgova mangoes. There is more to talk about this place which holds a unique place in the cultural map of Tamil Nadu. The place’s raw silk and sago (javvarisi) have geographical indicator tags; and as it is surrounded by hills, Salem is also known as a geologist’s paradise.

Speaking of the political landscape of Salem, it comprises six assembly segments including Edappadi, the home ground of the AIADMK chief, Omalur, Salem North, Salem South, Salem West, and Veerapandi.

The poll data from 1952 to 2019 show that the Congress party enjoys an upper hand in the constituency which it has won seven times, either on its own or as part of an alliance.

However, AIADMK has increased its vote share in the past five general elections. The Dravidian party tasted victory thrice — in 1999 (49.73%), 2009 (42.51%), and 2014 (49.27%). In the 2019 election, the DMK emerged victorious with a vote share of 48.51%. Congress’ last win was in 2004 with a vote share of 59.96%.

This time, similar to a few other constituencies in Tamil Nadu, Salem is also witnessing a three-cornered contest between the candidates of DMK, AIADMK, and PMK (in alliance with the BJP).

This election is going to be a testing time for the former chief minister and AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami. Apart from proving his leadership by winning more seats, a victory for the party in Salem is much-needed as it includes the leader’s home ground too. After breaking ties with the BJP, he decided the AIADMK would face this election alone despite pressure from other national parties.

Yet, the party has fielded a less-known face, P Vignesh (30) of Thindamangalam in Omalur, who is the deputy secretary of Amma Peravai. His mother Dhanabakiyam is the chairperson of the panchayat.

The DMK is fielding TM Selvaganapathy (65), the former local administration and rural development minister during the AIADMK regime (1991-1996). He joined DMK in 2008 and became a Rajya Sabha MP in 2010. He is the first Tamil Nadu politician to be disqualified as an MP after he was convicted in a cremation shed construction scam case.

DMK leader and Chief Minister MK Stalin denied the ticket to the incumbent MP SR Parthiban allegedly because he is not active and has not carried out effective works for public welfare and party’s growth. The DMK won the seat through Parthiban after a gap of 39 years.

PMK, in alliance with BJP, has given the ticket to N Annadurai, the party’s state youth wing secretary and a forerunner in conducting protests against the state and central governments in Salem. Annadurai is contesting after a gap of eight years.

While the rural part of the constituency is dominated by the Vanniyar community, there are members of several other communities (Saurashtra, Pillaimar, Kannada, Chettiar, and Mudaliyar) within the city limits. The candidates of all three major parties belong to the Vanniyar community.

The AIADMK could be the favourite in this constituency due to EPS’ popularity as he is a former CM and has always been accessible to people when in his native. But with the candidate being new to the poll game and facing a heavyweight Selvaganapathy, there are chances for an ‘unexpected’ result.

What the voters say

Residents here are satisfied with the road infrastructure in Salem city and its neighbouring areas as it has greatly improved over the decade. Salem is also one of the fastest-growing cities in Tamil Nadu. But the industrialists demand the setting up of more tidal parks to create better employment opportunities for youth as Salem is an educational hub and connecting point to Bengaluru.

One of the major demands of the voters, especially industrialists, is the setting up of an industrial park in the surplus land at the Salem Steel plant.

According to P Vimalan, director of Kongu Global Forum, “There have not been major developments with regards to flight service. The upcoming Salem airport expansion must facilitate nighttime operation which will benefit industrialists. Airlines are now targeting more tourists to Yercaud but the roads to the destination always witness heavy traffic congestion. The government must carry out a study to provide a cable car facility connecting Yercaud from the foothills of Salem to solve this issue.”

Voters pointed out that the underground drainage is a complete failure and crores of rupees spent for this have been wasted as connections were not given properly, causing drainage water to overflow.

R Yeshwanth, an MBA graduate and resident of Salem Junction, said, more multinational companies should come up and set up their branches in and around Salem so that more employment opportunities will be created. R Shruthi, a young voter, said that the new MP should conduct periodic inspections at every ration shop as the goods are sold in the black market at high rates.

Getting a geographical indication tag for silver ornaments is the long-pending demand of the Silver Anklet Manufacturers Craft Association as more than 10,000 industries are involved in its production. Voters also demand for the bifurcation of Salem, making Edappadi or Athur another district.

No ticket to incumbent MP

MK Stalin denied the ticket to the incumbent MP SR Parthiban allegedly because he is not active and has not carried out effective works for the welfare of people and the growth of the party. The DMK had won the seat through Parthiban after a gap of 39 years with a margin of 1,46,926 votes. The poll data from 1952 to 2019 show that the Congress party enjoys an upper hand in the constituency which it has won seven times, either on its own as part of an alliance. However, AIADMK has increased its vote share in the past five general elections

(With inputs from Shakthivel K)

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