Freebies count more than spectrum scam

Price rise, power cuts fuel anti-incumbency

While the main contests are between the DMK-Congress alliance and the AIADMK-DMDK led fronts, despite the BJP and BSP contesting in most constituencies, a web of issues has come to the fore, making the contests keener and tougher.

Every vote has to be fought for, as people by and large are eager for a change. These trends came to the fore as Deccan Herald went around key Assembly segments in Madurai, Virdhunagar, Theni and Sivagnga districts.

Interactions with a cross-section of voters bring forth a web of issues at stake in these places. These include liberally flowing freebies like good wine beating down corruption-related issues, and caste loyalties being as crucial as day-to-day bread-and-butter issues.

Almost everywhere, the main thing that goes against the ruling DMK is the price ri­se, even as voters across inco­me bands are badly hit by the pe­trol price hike. The other iss­ue is the erratic power cuts ra­n­­ging from two to four hours a day, hitting economic activities from farming to small scale industries.

“It is ‘vilavaasi ettram (price rise)’ that hits us most, followed by power cut,” says a daily wage earner V Vadivel, echoing the widely diffused anti-incumbency mood, at Kandanur, part of Karaikudi Assembly segment in Sivaganga district.

“Kalaignar (DMK chief Karunanidhi) provides rice at Re 1 per kg, but to cook that into food along with other edibles costs us Rs 50,” cries Kathir, a farmer at Cholapuram village, near Sivaganga.

“A litre of petrol now costs Rs 78 along with oil and; people start walking and don’t want to even hire an auto in the villages,” rues Haridoss of S S Kottai, in the Tirupatthur Assembly segment where Minister Periyakaruppan is pitted against the AIADMK’s former minister Raja Kannappan, in an absorbing straight fight.

“People want a change in Government,” says farmer Alagu in Kottampatti in Melur constituency of nearby Madurai.

“These people (DMK) have ruled for five years. So why not vote for the Jayalalithaa-Vijayakant alliance this time,” asks Nagamma, a woman farm worker at Jeminipatti on the Melur-Tiruppathur border.

The de-limitation has effected several swaps in areas under various constituencies, whose impact on the voting is still not known. This is because concentration of caste vote-banks have a territorial contiguity that could now get divided.

Scheme hits farming

A universal complaint by farmers is that though the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is basically good as a hunger-proofing scheme, it is depriving legitimate farming activity of labour.

“The MGNREGS is forcing people to sell their arable lands and covert it into real estate,” lamented a farmer at the Vaigi dam, the life-line of farmers in Theni, Madurai and a few other districts. “How do we cultivate? We don’t get people even to collect cow dung and organic manure for the farms,” said Vellachamy of Chinna Kundrakudi, urging the Centre to restrict that scheme to agricultural off-seasons.

The link between the DMK regime’s freebies softening the blow of the spectrum scam seems equally tenuous, going by responses from the voters. Most of the freebies like colour TVs have reached our homes, while the spectrum scam is not an issue in the villages though we heard of Raja’s arrest,” says S Jayaraj, of Ch­okka­na­tha­puram in the Usilampatti constituency of Theni district.

But more than freebies and moral issues like spectrum sc­am—in many places people ha­ve not got the free gas connect­ions yet or the two acres of la­­nd promised by the DMK—caste loyalties are more de­cisive, argued Jayaraj, referring to the Thevar community being a dominant social group in the South.

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