A star contest in Thoothukudi

The BJP is playing both the caste and religious cards to tilt the votes of Hindus in its favour – the party and its nominee have been openly saying that Kanimozhi isn’t a Nadar since only her mother, Rajathi, belongs to the community. The saffron party is heavily banking on alliance partners AIADMK and Puthiya Tamizhagam which has influence in pockets.

Known as ‘Pearl City’ of South India, Thoothukudi has been an industrial hub for decades but still lacks good roads, proper drinking water facilities and yearns for fresh air due to pollution let out by industries dotting the city and its suburbs.
 
While the shutting down of Sterlite Copper and the police firing that killed 13 lives are one of the major issues that weighs heavily on the minds of the voter, the same sentiments do not prevail in other five assembly constituencies that are part of this Lok Sabha segment formed in 2009 after delimitation.
 
Lack of development dominates Vilathikulam and Ottapidaram constituencies, while the impact of GST and demonetisation on cottage industries that make famous peanut bites and other sweet items is still palpable in Kovilpatti assembly segment.
 
The 2019 contest for Thoothukudi Lok Sabha seat is a political potboiler with a keen three-cornered contest between Kanimozhi (DMK), Tamilisai Soundararajan (BJP) and Dr M Bhuvaneswaran from the AMMK. Since the constituency is dominated by the enterprising Nadar community, all parties have fielded candidates from the community and are happily playing the caste card.
 
All parties have promised upgradation of the airport, which handles just a couple of flights a day and augmentation of basic infrastructure like roads. Many in Thoothukudi and suburbs want the next MP to find ways on reducing air pollution, besides promoting industries that would help the locals.
 
Sterlite Copper plant is the major issue for all political parties, except for the BJP which maintains a studied silence, in Thoothukudi city and the DMK and AMMK led by T T V Dhinakaran have promised “not to act” against will of the people. Tamilisai’s earlier statements endorsing the police firing and her strident pro-Sterlite sentiments could cause considerable damage to her fortunes in the town and the most strident opponents of Sterlite say they would opt for NOTA rather than voting for anyone.
 
R Edwin Samuel, former chairperson of CII, Thoothukudi told DH that the Thoothukudi port should be made as a “hub port” for the region with a futuristic vision. “The port is located in a strategic location and making it a hub port would help generate revenue. Also, the airport should be upgraded as one handling international flights at least to few locations besides upgrading of the East Coast Road to spur development in backward areas like Vilathikulam,” Samuel, also Managing Director of Pearl Shipping Agencies, said.
 
With the constituency being dominated by Christians and a considerable chunk of Muslims, the DMK is working towards getting their support en masse, while it is also hoping that the AMMK nominee will cut into much of the traditional AIADMK votes. The anti-BJP sentiments that is prevalent in Thoothukudi town, partly because of the firing, might also help the DMK.
 
The BJP is playing both the caste and religious cards to tilt the votes of Hindus in its favour – the party and its nominee have been openly saying that Kanimozhi isn’t a Nadar since only her mother, Rajathi, belongs to the community. The saffron party is heavily banking on alliance partners AIADMK and Puthiya Tamizhagam which has influence in pockets.
 
The party is also projecting Tamilisai as one with “clean image” – a taunt at rival Kanimozhi who battled the 2G case till about a year ago. One factor that could go in favour of Kanimozhi is her frequent visits to Thoothukudi in the past and her participation in around 60 ‘grama sabha’ meetings organised by the DMK in January and February this year.  

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A star contest in Thoothukudi

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