Will BJP make it in Coimbatore this election?

Will BJP make it in Coimbatore this election?

Former BJP MP C P Radhakrishnan, who lost the 2014 elections by 42,000 votes despite being part of the Third Front without the DMK and AIADMK, will face-off CPI (M)’s P R Natarajan here. In this ‘Manchester of South India’, where economic policies like GST and demonetisation might cast a shadow on the polls. 

Radhakrishnan, who was elected from this urban constituency in 1998 and 1999, hails from the dominant Gounder community and is perceived as a go-getter, which might strike a chord in Coimbatore, which is dotted by industries.

Also, the alliance with AIADMK is expected to boost Radhakrishnan’s chance this time around – Coimbatore and West Tamil Nadu is the ruling party’s bastion. In fact, this region propelled the J Jayalalithaa Government to a second consecutive term. BJP has always had some base in Coimbatore and the party has been working on making inroads in the region for the past few years, keeping the 2019 elections in mind. 

Also, in contention, this time is N R Appadurai of the AMMK and Dr R Mahendran of Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. Since it is an urban constituency, the MNM hopes to make some impact and Haasan himself had campaigned here more than once.

The writ of the AMMK's T T V Dhinakaran does not run large in Western Tamil Nadu, which would bring relief to the BJP, since it means the AIADMK votes would not get split in a major way.

Radhakrishnan faces tough questions on the impact of GST and demonetisation, which led to the closing down of several Medium and Small-Scale Industries’ (MSME) units in Coimbatore and surrounding areas – the pump set and wet grinder manufacturers have been the worst hit.

On the other hand, GST and demonetisation are the major issues being raised by the CPI(M) candidate Natarajan, who lays the entire blame on BJP and Narendra Modi government for the crisis.

Though several small units were hit due to the implementation of the note ban and GST, leading to a loss of several thousand jobs, it remains to be seen whether it will have a major impact in this election.

Robust party machinery aided by the AIADMK is another added advantage for the BJP nominee, while the CPI(M), which has lost considerable base here, where it had won seats in the past, is depending on its alliance partner, DMK, to win this seat. 

Industrialists feel the next MP should be “proactive” in meeting people’s need and work towards improving infrastructure in Coimbatore and surrounding areas. “The focus should be to provide a lot of support to the MSMEs, which have crippled, and help them bounce back immediately. The current MP did not help us in any way to get the MSMEs back onto the track,” Vanitha Mohan, Chairperson of Pricol Limited, told DH.

Also, the next MP should ensure that connectivity from Coimbatore to other cities – both domestic and international – is improved in a big way, Vanitha Mohan, said. “I am not talking only about flight connectivity, but also roads and highways. Flight connectivity should be increased for sure and efforts should also be taken for augmenting air cargo services,” she said.

Vanitha Mohan said there was no infrastructure development in Coimbatore for the past few years and this has to be taken into account by the new MP. 

AIADMK and BJP are also forced to explain the “absence” of incumbent MP P Nagarajan, who was not sensitive to the people’s needs, according to many people. Though MSMEs have come out against the BJP, many industrialists are in favour of the saffron party, since they feel Radhakrishnan would be able to get things done for them and Coimbatore.

A few associations that represent MSMEs like Kovai Power Driven Pumps and Spares Manufacturers Association (KOPMA) have openly supported the candidature of Natarajan, which would help the party. “Last elections, we supported Narendra Modi since we thought he would take care of MSMEs, but we faced the biggest crisis during his regime. So, this time we want to vote for CPI(M) which has promised to look into our demands,” KOPMA President K Maniraj told DH.

He said the GST has crippled the MSMEs and no effort was taken to address the concerns of people, who had suffered due to the policies of the government. "Our needs have not been met. We want our voice to be heard," Maniraj said.