In this General Election, Tamil Nadu has shown where it belongs. Despite its misgivings about DMK family politics, despite 13 Tamils self-immolating since February over the civilian bloodbath in Sri Lanka, it is not Sri Lanka’s Eelam but their own ‘illam’ (‘home’ in Tamil) that counted overall with Tamil voters. This sentiment is strongly voiced in the historic rice bowl of the state, the Kaveri Delta.
The Thanjavur Lok Sabha seat is the crown jewel of the Kaveri Delta. Since 1967, it has been ruled alternately by one the big regional parties, the DMK and AIADMK.
In this General Election this important seat was won by over one lakh votes by the sitting Member of Parliament, S.S. Palanimanickam, the Minister of State for Finance in the previous UPA government. He defeated Durai Balakrishnan of the MDMK, an ally of the AIADMK.
“All this Eelam business was sheer drama by Vaiko and the PMK,” Palanimanickam told HT. “And Anbumani Ramadoss was in government all these years. Why did he not bother with Eelam earlier? It is development that matters in the Delta, and a strong Centre.”
His win affirms the pulse picked up in HT’s pre-election reportage from the Kaveri Delta in March for the India Yatra series, that outin the Delta, local issues are paramount.
“This is the best election I have seen. The main issue here is overall development allied to the maintenance of agricultural land. The region is a self-sustaining economic zone with rural credit cooperative societies run by the Chennai Central Bank and NABARD. All these small parties have been simply bothering the people. But now we look forward to five years of stable administration,” said S. Ranganathan, General Sectretary of the Tamil Nadu Kaveri Delta Farmers’ Association.
The DMK has kept the Delta in increased good humour since five months ago when, as a pre-election move, it raised paddy procurement prices from Rs 8.50, the Centre’s Minimum Support Price (MSP), to Rs 10 a kg, as recommended by the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Price (CACP).
“The Delta farmers know what matters. No other state in India actually implements so many welfare schemes. If a poor girl gets married, the state gives her Rs 20,000. If a poor student wants to go to college after high school, all his education is free. My personal agenda for the Delta is the modernization of the Kaveri irrigation, a 200 crore project,” said Palanimanickam.