AIADMK’s unwavering support for controversial agricultural laws, the “neglect” of farmers by the BJP-led government at the Center, and the lack of “appropriate relief” in the wake of Cyclone Gaja which ravaged the fertile Delta region de la Cauvery – these are some of the factors that could further help DMK in its central Tamil Nadu stronghold, which constitutes 46 assembly segments in eight districts. In addition, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) led by TTV Dhinakaran could divide the votes of AIADMK in several constituencies in the region, especially in the Delta districts, further strengthening the DMK handset.
In districts like Cuddalore and Ariyalur, the DMK and AIADMK are engaged in an intense neck-and-neck battle, thanks to the ruling party’s alliance with the PMK. In Tiruchirappalli district, DMK appears to be ahead of AIADMK-BJP, while Health Minister C Vijayabaskar is literally going the extra mile for Viramalali to get home.
Ministers walk further
While Food Minister R Kamaraj appears to be resorting to the ‘sympathy’ factor because he was infected with Covid-19, Handlooms OS Minister Manian and AIADMK strongman R Vaithilingam are fighting an uphill battle in Vedaranyam and Orathanadu respectively. In a few coastal constituencies, the ruling party appears to be ahead, while the odds are stacked against it in many segments.
In the 2016 elections, AIADMK won 27 seats, leaving 19 to the DMK alliance, and with Left and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), then vying as a separate entity, now back with DMK, it will be an added benefit for the party.
While Left has considerable influence in the Delta region, the VCK will strengthen the alliance in Cuddalore, Perambalur and Ariyalur. Add to that the traditional DMK votes in the region, which has been its stronghold.
It is in the Cauvery Delta region that the AIADMK-BJP has a real problem, where many openly say they will not vote for the AIADMK because of its alliance with the BJP. Minorities, especially Muslims, who voted for AIADMK in 2016 when it was ruled by the late J Jayalalithaa, are likely to consolidate behind DMK due to many factors including the Citizenship Law (amendment ) of 2019.
Dhinakaran’s AMMK is also “strong” in many areas, with political observers predicting it would withdraw some of the votes from AIADMK.
Farmers angry at BJP
Farmers in the Delta region seem ruthless to BJP and its leaders for not engaging them during their 100-day protest in the streets of Delhi in 2017. They also point out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not turn up. traveled to the Delta after Cyclone Gaja left a trail of destruction across the region, uprooting lakes of coconut palms.
“We were at the Prime Minister’s doorstep in Delhi (in 2017) for 100 days. He (the PM) could have called us and engaged with us. Why? Are we not citizens of India? Not only that, the Center never bothered to help the Delta farmers when they lost everything during Cyclone Gaja. And now the BJP has issued three laws just to help businesses, ”said Veera Rajendran, a farmer from Tiruvaiyaru. DH.
Many farmers who DH spoke in the Delta region, said agricultural laws will affect the community once they are implemented. “Although we will not be affected immediately as we sell it directly to the government of Tamil Nadu, farmers will certainly be affected in the long term. We will be forced to nod to the people we sign agreements with, ”said one farmer.
Fully aware that farmers in the region are unhappy, the ruling AIADMK has taken several steps to project itself as a “farmer-friendly” government after the humiliating loss of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Outreach began with the announcement of the fertile Cauvery Delta region as a special protected agricultural zone to prevent the implementation of oil exploration projects and the renunciation of agricultural loans granted by farmers in cooperative banks.
Shared opinion on the agricultural loan exemption
However, opinion on the agricultural loan exemption is divided. “More than 60 percent of farmers use loans from nationalized banks and only the rest go to cooperative banks. And getting an agricultural loan from cooperative banks is not that easy. So the loan waiver will not help all farmers, ”said another farmer.
PR Pandian, president of All Farmers’ Association, said that only Rs 1,300 crore of agricultural loans granted by farmers in the Delta region fall under the program, while the western region has covered more than Rs 7,000 crore. “The loan waiver will not benefit real farmers. The project was only announced in the run-up to the elections, ”he said.
Coconut farmers in Peravurnai and Pattukkottai, in Thanjavur district, complain that they did not receive “all” aid for Cyclone Gaja. “While 1.25 million coconut palms were uprooted, farmers only received compensation for 65 lakh trees after two and a half years. And the compensation was much lower, ”said one coconut farmer.
Pandian was explicit in saying that the majority of votes against the BJP and AIADMK would go to the DMK.
“Not only by ignoring the agricultural protests and not going to Gaja, the BJP has acted against the interests of the delta farmers by openly siding with Karnataka. AIADMK has also sided with the BJP on numerous occasions, including defending agricultural laws. The farmers’ anti-BJP stance will take away the voices from AIADMK and give them to the DMK alliance, ”he added.