Job Crunch is the Political Pulse of Karti Chidambaram vs Raja Battle in TN’s Sivagangai
In Sivagangai, H Raja faces a difficult battle against Karti Chidambaram, the son of P Chidambaram who has won from the seat since 1984.
Chennai: The evening commotion in Sivagangai town has a dim undertone. People are busy going about their usual business; the buzzing market, located less than a kilometre from the Collector's office is crowded with fruit sellers, teashop workers and auto-rickshaw walas. While an ordinary evening takes its usual course, conversations have turned a new direction - jobs.
Amid the build-up to the General elections, H Raja, BJP candidate for Sivagangai, is holding discussions with sitting AIADMK MP from Sivagangai constituency, PR Senthilnathan, at the AIADMK office. At the Congress office in Sivagangai, Karti Chidambaram is meeting his allies and planning strategies for the Lok Sabha elections.
Ahead of polls, public opinion and politics in this town appears divided. The electorate is voicing real issues like employment, while political parties are indulging in a battle that hardly concerns the electorate. Who votes for whom in Sivagangai is a mystery, but everyone by now knows who the battle is between.
T Elangovan, a 37-year-old fruit seller, is a BA graduate, but having no better job opportunities, he decided to sell fruits to make ends meet.
"Our constituency is not developed. Sivagangai has been the same. This constituency is not a job-generating one. Look at Karaikudi (home to both former finance minister P Chidambaram and H Raja). That place has better amenities and infrastructure. This place is called a town, but it is not. I urge whoever comes to power this time to look at ways of creating more jobs here," he says.
A Ayappan, an auto-rickshaw driver unhappy with the poor road infrastructure in the constituency, echoes the same. He says, "People from here go to Madurai for job opportunities. If the elected MP helps with more job creation, it would be great. People can work here and not travel to other constituencies."
Handing over steaming cups of tea to the crowd at his shop, M Rajendran feels there exists a certain political vacuum in the state after the death of two tall leaders – J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi. His tea story has not held him back from re-imagining his town. Rajendran says factories should be set up in Sivagangai to generate jobs, especially for the youth.
Besides, people who make a small living selling essential commodities want the elected representatives from the constituency to work on the water crisis in the region. They feel a solution will solve farm crisis.
The mood is grim at the AIADMK party office. But Raja is busy planning his campaigns in run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. Workers are disappointed that their party member is not directly contesting from Sivagangai. They have had to come to terms with the fact that their party is in alliance with the BJP.
"Our MP has worked hard for the people of this constituency. We hoped he would retain his seat, but the high command decided that we would now work for the BJP candidate. So, we are working for H Raja sir. We managed to convince our party workers who were initially angry with the decision," said a party worker who has been working for the AIADMK for over seven years.
Another worker, however, reminded that it is because of the BJP that the state government remained in power after the demise of Jayalalithaa, albeit a meagre majority.
For the DMK-led alliance, however, the situation seems a bit different.
Sivagangai has been a Chidambaram and Congress bastion since 1984. The former finance minister has won seven times from the constituency. In 2014, Karti Chidambaram was fielded from the same constituency, but lost the election. The same year, H Raja also contested polls, but came third after the AIADMK and the DMK.
The battle for 2019 elections is between Karti Chidambaram and H Raja yet again, but this time, with the backing of a formidable alliance with two national parties.
Karti Chidambaram Versus H Raja
H Raja will contest for the third time from Sivagangai, while this will be Karti's second attempt. Both candidates are confident that victory will be theirs.
Karti says the Congress-DMK alliance will repeat its 2004 performance. “We have a great alliance. We have a cordial relationship and this seems to be a natural fit. Everybody is comfortable in this alliance,” he says.
“That can't be said about the AIADMK-BJP. It is a forced alliance. I jokingly call it the Modi-MK. A true follower of Jayalalithaa and MGR can't stomach this alliance,” he adds.
In the other camp, Raja believes the alliance between the AIADMK and the BJP is a natural one. "Our ideologies have been the same. MGR was a believer of spirituality and he has also been a staunch nationalist. Ideologically, our alliance is a natural one. The PMK got seven seats and we got five. How is it possible that we get lesser than the PMK if we forced them to ally with us," says Raja.
The under-development in Sivagangai, the BJP posits, is for Chidambaram to be accountable for. Raja says Sivagangai still remains a backward constituency despite the fact the he won from the same constituency seven times.
"Mr Chidambaram has been an MP for decades, yet Sivagangai remains a backward district. Why should it be a backward constituency when it had a senior member in the cabinet as its representative? People too feel the same way. That has given me the encouragement to contest from this place for the third time," says Raja.
On the other hand, Karti says the pulse of the people is anti-BJP and anti-AIADMK and that they need a change in the government at both the state and the Centre.
"The biggest issue, not only in Sivagangai but in entire Tamil Nadu and all over India, is that people want a change of government at the Centre. The present government is a Fascist one, a dictatorial government. There is a clear mood in the state to vote out the BJP. Heavy anti-incumbency against the AIADMK and the BJP will reflect in the upcoming elections," says the Congress leader.
The BJP and H Raja are using the corruption allegations against Karti Chidambaram as their main poll swing.
"As emphasised by the Prime Minister, he never fails to mention about the 'recounting minister' when he comes to Tamil Nadu. The family is now searching a family package for bail. Corruption is a big issue and dynasty politics is another issue that will decide the polls," says Raja.
But Karti says the “politically targeted” cases against him and his father will not have a bearing on 2019 polls.
"My father is the most vehement critic of this government. He points out the follies of the government. Their answer is to file cases and complaints which don’t go on to become proper cases,” he says.
Karti is confident that the electorate that has elected his father multiple times is very much aware of the politics infused by the BJP.
“Everybody knows my father. He has been here since 1984. They know the kind of political targeting we are subjected to and they know the truth. They know that the government is not able to answer the questions he raises and this (corruption cases against them) is their immature way of dealing with it,” he adds.
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