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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Many Ministers, little development

Industrial development, amenities lacking in Villupuram district

VILLUPURAM: The strategically located Villupuram district has always played a major role in State politics. It has the distinction of having produced the first Chief Minister of Madras Presidency, Omandur P. Ramasamy Reddiyar, in the post-Independence era. But though it has turned out many Ministers, it has not made much progress on the socio-economic front.
The district cannot boast of an industrial estate or clusters of small-scale units, and hence unemployment remains a daunting issue. The adverse weather conditions force many farm hands to migrate to Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry.

The tribal conclaves of the Kalryan Hills lack basic amenities. The tsunami-hit fishermen are still struggling to offset their losses. Though a major producer of tapioca and guava, the district does not have any food-processing industry or sago/starch unit. When Villupuram was carved out of the erstwhile South Arcot district in 1993 it took away 12 Assembly segments, leaving just nine to Cuddalore.

The major political parties such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are in constant tussle. The Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Dalit Panthers of India are striving to nurture their own constituencies and expand their base.

The district has a total population of 29.44 lakh, consisting of Scheduled Castes (27.17 per cent), Scheduled Tribes (1.77 per cent), Backward Class (23 per cent), Most Backward Class (39.8 per cent), and others (8.26 per cent). The MBCs, mainly the Vanniyars, are dominant, followed by the Dalits, and hence, these two communities play a crucial role in deciding the winner.
Earlier, the Vanniyars and the Dalits were at loggerheads, but closed the ranks, coming under the common umbrella of Tamil protection.

However, now they stand divided on the political front, as the two main forces representing them — the PMK and the DPI — are in opposite camps. At present two leaders, K. Ponmudi of the DMK and Education Minister C.Ve. Shanmugham are considered to be the power centres, and both are in the fray at Villupuram and Tindivanam respectively.
They are straining to gain the upper hand in the region, and in this endeavour the DMK is facing an uphill task.

The AIADMK has established its supremacy till now in Tindivanam, Vanur, Melmalaiyanur, Thirunavalur, Ulundurpet, Mugaiyur, Chinna Salem, Kandamangalam and Ginjee constituencies, and in the remaining three — Villupuram, Sankarapuram and Rishivandhiyam — the DPA partners are ruling the roost.

The foremost duty of the DMK would be to wrest as many seats as possible from the AIADMK. The DMK State conference held in Villupuram was a pointer to that effort.
However, dissension and dissatisfaction are stalking both the camps: former DMK MLA A.G. Sampath has chosen to contest as an independent for the Mugaiyur seat, and the choice of AIADMK candidate Tamizhmozhi Rajadathan for Melmalaiyanur has caused displeasure among partymen.

DMDK potential Besides addressing the sensitive issue of dissension, both the camps ought to keep an eye on the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam that has the potential to wreck the chances of one of the major alliances.

It remains to be seen whose vote actor Vijayakanth's party will cut into. On that may depend who triumphs in this sensitive district.

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