Aiyar battles farm crisis, anti-incumbency in Mayiladuthurai | india | Hindustan Times
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Aiyar battles farm crisis, anti-incumbency in Mayiladuthurai

india Updated: May 12, 2009 15:09 IST
Aiyar battles farm crisis

He has seen them growing up from schoolchildren to electors and now Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar feels his work and appeal among new-generation voters will help him clinch a victory, but agrarian crisis and anti-incumbency may pose bumps.

The Congress leader says the generation that has grown up watching him allotting funds to build schools and stadiums in the constituency would acknowledge his work and stand by him. The new voters form about ten per cent of the electorate here.

But Aiyar's poll battle tomorrow against main rival and AIADMK's O S Manian will be a reality check of his at least 18-year-old association with the constituency that has voted him to power in 1991, 1999 and 2004.

Political observers say anti-incumbency wave against both the state and the Central governments, problems within the DMK-led alliance over the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils and the lack of large-scale industrial development have threatened to dent Aiyar's prospects.

Moreover, crisis in the farm sector in this constituency, which falls in the tail end area of the Cauvery Delta, may hit him in this election.

"Agriculture is the mainstay of this region. But regular floods and droughts have hit us in recent years. There has been no proper resolution of the Cauvery water-sharing problem. Moreover, we had to face power cuts this year," said farmer R Santhanam.

AIADMK's Manian, who lost the 2004 elections to Aiyar by around two lakh votes, appears to be in a good position now with the alliance arithmetic working out in his favour, the observers said.

The constituency has a high concentration of Vanniyars, the vote base of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) that has switched over to the AIADMK camp, making it tough for the Congress-DMK coalition in the state.

Manian is also claiming credit for some development work in the constituency, saying he had sanctioned funds when he was a Rajya Sabha member. Not just this, he has also accused Aiyar of not doing anything to tide over the agrarian crisis.

These apart, though some of the big-ticket development programmes of the governments, both in the state and at the Centre, have been hailed, people want to cast their votes in favour of him who would do more for the development of this constituency.

While labourers here have welcomed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), farmers complain that it has resulted in labour shortage. "We are not able to pay what the labourers demand," a farmer said.

The farm loan waiver has also invited mixed reactions. The scheme of providing rice at
just Re 1 per kg has been received well. "But what about the price rise in all other commodities?" Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, a housewife from Sirkazhi, asked.

Fishermen, who were hit hard by the 2004 tsunami, are not satisfied with the rehabilitation issue. They claim that the permanent housing given by the government was far from the sea and it is affecting their work.

Though Aiyar and Manian are the main contenders here, BSP candidate L V Saptarishi is wooing the scheduled caste population, much to the disadvantage of the Congress candidate who used to grab these votes earlier.

Moreover, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam President and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi candidate M H Jawahirullah is expected to eat into the Muslim vote base of Aiyar.

Apart from them, the fishing community in Sirkazhi and Poompuhar Assembly segments had been traditional supporters of the AIADMK.