Pot full of hopes in Chidambaram LS constituency in Tamil Nadu

Development of Pichavaram tourist destination, immediate opening of Parangipettai fishing harbour, implementation of permanent flood prevention plan in coastal villages are key demands of people
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

ARIYALUR: Popular as one among the many temple towns of the state, Chidambaram is a quaint little place located in Cuddalore district. When it comes to its political landscape, the parliamentary constituency of Chidambaram, with six assembly segments, is spread across three districts — Cuddalore (Kattumannarkovil, Chidambaram and Bhuvanagiri), Ariyalur (Jayankondam and Ariyalur), and Perambalur (Kunnam).

Agriculture is the primary occupation of the people here as the Veeranam lake that supplies drinking water to Chennai is located in this constituency. Chidambaram is a caste sensitive constituency which has a substantial population of Vanniyars and Dalits. Hence, both Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) have significant support here, apart from the major parties of DMK and AIADMK. Also, the localities of Lalpet and Labbaikudikadu have a significant population of Muslims.

VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan (61) is a familiar face for the residents here as the leader has been contesting from the constituency for more than two decades now. While he came out victorious in 2009 and 2019, Thirumavalavan could only finish second in 1999, 2004 and 2014 general elections.

The incumbent MP has been fielded for the sixth time now; his last victory was by a narrow margin of 3,219 votes. In 2019, his victory was declared at midnight, hours after the results of all other constituencies had come out. This time, his major opponents are M Chandrakasan (71) of the AIADMK and P Karthiyayini (41) of the BJP. AIADMK’s M Chandrakasan is a native of Thamaraipoondi village in Ariyalur and a former Sendurai panchayat union chairman. BJP’s P Karthiyayini hails from Vellore and was the corporation’s mayor in 2012 when she was with the AIADMK. Chidambaram is a new ground for her and she is heavily dependent on the vote bank and ground support of the PMK. Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) candidate R Jancirani (41) is from Perambalur but she is unlikely to make any impact.

The VCK is part of the DMK-led INDIA bloc in the state and is contesting under the earthen pot symbol in Chidambaram and Villupuram constituencies. Thirumavalavan and his pot symbol are already familiar to the voters here. It looks like the equations of political alliances formed for this election might favour Thirumavalavan as the PMK has joined hands with the BJP. It would have been a tough fight for Thirumavalavan if the PMK had chosen to join the AIADMK alliance as in 2019. Adding strength to his candidacy is the support of two DMK ministers, MRK Panneerselvam and SS Sivasankar, who have the influence to garner the support of their Vanniyar community.

Though Thirumavalavan has been initiating various projects using his MP funds during his term, the constituency has not seen any significant development, said a few voters. People also complained about his inaction on many demands. However, a VCK supporter said the MP’s hands were tied with a BJP government at the centre.

The saffron party does not have a big base here and is completely depending on the support of PMK. In fact, the constituency had witnessed several protests against the BJP for the increase in prices of essential commodities like gas cylinders, petrol and diesel. The state government had announced to return 8,373 acres of land acquired in 1997 for a mining-cum-power project to thousands of farmers from 11 villages near Jayankondam in Ariyalur district which is expected to benefit DMK in this election. As far as the AIADMK is concerned, it cannot make up for the loss of the PMK as partner, which is expected to be visible in the vote margin as well.

In the past 17 Lok Sabha elections since 1952, Chidambaram had stood six times with Congress party, four times with DMK, thrice with PMK, and twice each with AIADMK and VCK.

Gangaikonda Cholapuram Development Council Trust founder R Komagan told TNIE, “There are more than nine large chain lakes in the district including Kandiratheertham (Sembiyan Mahadevi), Suthamalli, and Ponneri lakes, all of which cover an area of about 500 acres. These should be restored and declared as heritage water bodies thereby attracting funds.”

“A railway line should be laid from Cuddalore to Salem via Chidambaram, Kattumannarkoil, Jayankondam, Ariyalur and Perambalur. Also, we want all express trains to stop at Ariyalur station. Factories should be established in SIPCOT and employment should be created for the people,” opined T Senthil, a resident of Ariyalur

According to N Chelladurai, a farmer, the proposed methane project in Jayankondam should be abandoned and the entire Ariyalur district should be made part of the protected agricultural zone. A textile park should be immediately set up to protect the interests of the weavers in Jayankondam, he added.

“Many people in Bhuvanagiri depend on agriculture. Veeranam lake should be renovated and water should be diverted to all areas. A scent factory should be set up in Bhuvanagiri, where flower production is high. Sethiyathope Milk Chilling Centre should be modernised and its procurement capacity should be increased. People of 40 villages who have given land to the Neyveli Lignite Corportation should be provided with permanent jobs as their livelihood has been affected,” said V Subramaniyan from Bhuvanagiri.

Development of Pichavaram as a tourist destination, deepening of the estuary for fishing boats, immediate opening of the completed fishing harbour at Parangipettai, implementation of a permanent flood prevention plan in coastal villages of Chidambaram, opening of a government arts college at Kattumannarkoil, and a crocodile farm are other major demands of the people.

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