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The by-election to the Erode East Assembly constituency will be a testing ground for the DMK which has been in power in Tamil Nadu for two years, but it’s also equally important for the opposition AIADMK, which would be looking to win back the constituency it represented before the current term.
The by-election to the constituency was called due to the sudden death of sitting MLA E Thirumahan Everaa of the Indian National Congress.
Erode East constituency covers 33 wards of Erode City Corporation with 238 polling stations and an electorate of a little over two lakh people. The constituency is predominantly urban, covering the main areas of Erode city, including the wholesale vegetable and textile markets as well as big industrial textile and leather units. As such, the electorate is mainly made up of the middle class and labourers.
While the DMK, AIADMK, and the Congress have all played the arithmetic of caste politics, locals vs outsiders and migrants vs natives, there is some sense of anti-incumbency mainly due to the increase in electricity tariffs, milk prices and property tax rates. The Congress, which has an alliance with the ruling DMK, has not talked about any major development agendas but instead attacked opposition parties’ internal issues, and the opposition alliance with the national ruling party.
The by-election to the constituency was called due to the sudden death of sitting MLA E Thirumahan Everaa of the Indian National Congress
The AIADMK has been highlighting the work it did when it held the constituency prior to 2021, such as the clean drinking water scheme, upgradation of the District Headquarters Hospital with a new building and medical equipment for multispeciality treatments, new flyover at GH hospital, beautification of Perumpallam Odai, construction of concrete walls on both sides of the Odai, rejuvenation of water bodies like Kani Ravuthar Kulam, Ellapalayam Tank, construction of Corporation’s commercial textiles markets for rent at Kani Market, Kalaimattu Silai, EVN Road, and so on.
There is not much that the DMK or the Congress can claim to have done just in the past two years. The deceased MLA Everaa had helped construct a PDS distribution centre, but it has not yet been opened.
Erode East faces several challenges. It has many polluting dyeing, bleaching and processing units serving the textile sector and leather processing units. Effluents are drained into the Pichaikaran Pallam Odai and Naripallam Odai, which is already contaminated with municipal solid waste. These industries are also causing occupational diseases, increasing the medical expenses of the working-class.
Another major issue is road traffic during peak hours. And basic facilities like primary health centres, primary schools, drinking water pipe connections, stormwater drainages, etc are all poorly maintained.
A couple of months before MLA Everaa passed away, he had submitted a petition with a 10-point agenda to the Additional District Collector of Erode to improve various facilities and services in the constituency. The ten points have been the demands of the local people for decades.
Alas, none of the parties have taken up these issues, as a large segment of the population lacks civic awareness. Even universities in the region do not care to research issues and suggest policy changes to improve the lives of the people there.
While the DMK, AIADMK, and the Congress have all played the arithmetics of caste politics, localism vs outsiders, migrants vs natives, there is some sense of anti-incumbency mainly due to the increase in electricity tariffs, milk prices and property tax rates
The main fight in this by-election is between the AIADMK and DMK. Congress has zero presence in the Erode East constituency despite having held the seat till now, as it was simply riding on the shoulders of the DMK. Other players like the DMDK do not matter to the electorate. All small parties and independent candidates will only split the votes.
Recently Rs 11 lakh of unaccounted cash was seized in the constituency after the Code of Conduct came into effect. It is well known that cash tends to flow freely during elections and is used to bribe the electorate through various means, such as vouchers, gift materials, liquor, food and even gold coins. There hasn’t been much action taken to stop these practices. People have also been complaining that labourers have taken these bribes and have therefore not been attending work in the past few weeks.
Whoever wins this by-election and by whichever means, they are likely to get only a thin margin. Considering the decades-long problems of the constituency and the means by which parties are bribing voters, neither is this a model election nor is any great visionary leader likely to emerge from it. For that matter, is any election in India much different?
(The author is an economist and public policy expert)
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