The DMK’s woes in Coimbatore began in 1998, when its candidate lost the Lok Sabha elections soon after the serial blasts here in February that year.The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won by a large margin. The BJP won the seat again in the mid-term elections next year, defeating candidates of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Tamil Maanila Congress. In the 2001 Assembly elections, the AIADMK front won all the 14 seats in Coimbatore.
Relief came in the form of wins in the Coimbatore and Pollachi constituencies in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections that saw a sweep in favour of the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance.But, the 2006 Assembly elections proved disastrous for the DMK in Coimbatore, and became one of the reasons that denied an outright majority for the party. Of the 14 seats, the DMK front won only three. Of these, the DMK won only one (Coimbatore East), while the other two – Valparai and Tirupur – were won by the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
This led to the view that Coimbatore was turning into an AIADMK stronghold. What followed was a desperate effort to win the Coimbatore Corporation elections. Of the 72 wards, the DMK won 29. The Congress and the CPI (M) won eight each and the CPI, four. Now, the CPI and the CPI (M) are with the AIADMK that won 10 wards.The 2006 local body elections may well have been the most closely fought since 1996 as the DMK had a lot at stake after the Assembly poll rout.
Now, the 2009 Lok Sabha elections have virtually brought back the 2006 situation. While the rest of the State has given a good mandate to the DMK front, it lost out to the AIADMK alliance in Coimbatore district. While the Pollachi seat was won by the AIADMK. Its ally, CPI (M) won Coimbatore, defeating the Congress. The newly formed Tirupur seat (carved out of Coimbatore) was also won by the AIADMK.
Sources in the DMK blame the latest debacle on the delay in the campaign taking off. By the time Congress candidate and former Union Minister R.Prabhu began his campaign, CPI (M) candidate P.R.Natarjan had capitalised on a good headstart.Congress sources attribute this to the delay in the party leadership announcing the candidates for some seats, including Coimbatore.This left the DMK and the Congress with very little time for campaign. DMK sources point out that by then Mr. Natarajan and his campaign teams had strongly campaigned against Mr.Prabhu, repeatedly calling him a person inaccessible for the common man.
Mr. Prabhu countered this campaign saying he has always been accessible. A faction in the Congress is also believed to have worked against him.The sources, however, point out that Mr.Prabhu polled 18,000 votes less than Mr. Natarajan in the Kavundampalayam Assembly segment where he was expected to poll more.The sources feel that by cutting into both fronts’ vote share, the newly formed Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam made things tough for Mr.Natarajan and disastrous for Mr.Prabhu.