In one important way, it is a different Coimbatore that is facing the Lok Sabha election on May 13. The demand for development is being addressed by the candidates; a far cry from the days of harping on fundamentalism in a once communally volatile constituency. Candidates of this constituency have to content with its grievances that largely pertain to inadequate infrastructure. A reversal of sentiment has occurred with various sections of the city that took pride in building a Coimbatore without government assistance, now demanding quality infrastructure to match growth.
Now, even industrial organisations such as the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are placing Coimbatore’s infrastructure wish list before the candidates. Citizens’ groups have also have prepared a 10-point people’s manifesto that calls on the government to act on providing good roads, rail links and expand the airport. A major demand in the city and the suburbs is for more drinking water. “Development is the main agenda. Coimbatore has reached a stage where only better infrastructure can take it forward,” says R.R.Balasundaram, vice-president of the Chamber, and secretary of the Residents’ Awareness Association of Coimbatore, which is spearheading a movement for flyovers, ring roads and other world-class facilities. These are all demands for close to a decade.
More investment in Coimbatore depends on infrastructure. A ring road and radial roads connecting it with the city can lead to more townships coming up, he says.A compelling need
The focus on development is so compelling that candidates seem have very little space for personal attacks or party ideologies. “Do something to provide us with more drinking water,” is the common refrain among voters in the city and the suburbs that largely make up the constituency.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate P.R.Natarajan launched his campaign attacking the Coimbatore Corporation for delaying the implementation of the Rs.113-crore Pilloor Phase II water scheme that is vital for its ambitious 24-hour water supply project. Mr.Natarajan and Congress candidate and former Union Minister R.Prabhu are locked in a tough battle. The former scores more points among voters by targeting the Congress-led Council in the Coimbatore Corporation on the water scheme and slow pace of implementing infrastructure schemes.
Even the Bharatiya Janata Party seems less strident with its usual poll plank of extremism. Its candidate G.K.S.Selvakumar too promises good roads and more water. A senior party functionary says the BJP had to change track locally because water-starved Coimbatoreans are unlikely to be satisfied with a promise to root out terrorism in Kashmir. Mr.Prabhu points at the development the UPA government has initiated in the form of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. He believes that a vote for continuity at the Centre will ensure sustained development in Coimbatore.
K.Ramasubramanian of the Bahujan Samaj Party, E.R.Easwaran of Kongunadu Munnetra Peravai and R.Pandian of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam emphasise the need to develop Coimbatore on the lines of Chennai and make it a favoured destination for investors.