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DMK looks to retain its bastion despite challenges in Chennai (South)

The second-biggest Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu with about 20.23 lakh voters, Chennai (South), comprising many middle-class localities, the business hub of T Nagar, and the IT corridor of Sholinganallur, is witnessing a keen triangular contest between the ruling DMK, which had won eight times from here, AIADMK and the BJP.
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 23:38 IST
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 23:38 IST

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Chennai: One of the star constituencies in Tamil Nadu, Chennai (South) has had the distinction of electing several stalwarts of the state’s diverse political landscape, including DMK founder C N Annadurai and Congress veterans T T Krishnamachari and R Venkataraman, in the past. 

The second-biggest Lok Sabha constituency in Tamil Nadu with about 20.23 lakh voters, Chennai (South), comprising many middle-class localities, the business hub of T Nagar, and the IT corridor of Sholinganallur, is witnessing a keen triangular contest between the ruling DMK, which had won eight times from here, AIADMK and the BJP. 

The DMK has fielded incumbent MP Thamizhachi Thangapandian, daughter of late party veteran V Thangapandian, while the AIADMK has nominated Dr J Jayavardhan, who represented the seat between 2014 and 2019, and former Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan from the BJP. K Tamilselvi is the candidate of Naam Tamizhar Katchi, a Tamil nationalist outfit. 

Like every other urban constituency, Chennai (South) faces heavy traffic congestion, poor infrastructure, and inadequate drainage facilities, with many localities, including upscale Velachery, being prone to flooding during the monsoon season. 

The constituency was one of the worst affected during the unprecedented rains and subsequent floods that hit Chennai in December 2023, with many areas like Pallikaranai, Perungudi, and Velachery, populated by IT employees, reeling under water for many days.

Encroachments in areas like Pallikaranai Marshland, viewed as one of the reasons for heavy flooding in Chennai (South), and the ecologically sensitive zone being used as a dump yard are some of the problems that people of this constituency have continued to face for years. The stormwater drains constructed by the DMK government after it came to power in 2021 also proved to be a systemic failure during the 2023 floods, adding to the woes of people living in these densely populated localities. 

A rich constituency, which boasts of rich natural resources like Nanmangalam forests, Guindy national park, Pallikaranai marshland, Perumbakkam wetlands, and a coastline that is the nesting ground for olive ridley turtles, is suffering due to unplanned growth, activists say. 

They also say that an acute drinking water crisis cannot be ruled out in the Lok Sabha segment in the future as permissions are given for the construction of more high-rise buildings, even as more water bodies make way for real estate.

Chennai (South) has been a bastion of the DMK, with Annadurai romping home from there in 1967, followed by Murasoli Maran in the by-elections that year, and in 1970, while former Union Minister T R Baalu won four times. The constituency also has the distinction of electing two Union finance ministers, Krishnamachari and Venkataraman, besides yesteryear actor Vyjayanthimala in 1984 and 1989. 

Thamizhachi faces anti-incumbency in Chennai (South) with people accusing her of “not visiting the constituency regularly” and “doing little” to enhance their living conditions. Though she denies the charges, people want the government and lawmakers to solve traffic problems in key shopping areas like T Nagar and residential localities like Adyar, Thiruvanmiyur, Saidapet, and Mylapore. 

While the AIADMK has won the seat three times in the past, the BJP is yet to open its account from here, though La Ganesan polled over 25% of the votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when his party contested alone. The BJP's Jan Krishnamurthy polled 4.12 lakh votes in 1998 in an alliance with the AIADMK but lost to DMK’s Baalu by a slender margin of 20,000 votes. 

Jayavardhan is banking on his “good work” as MP from 2014–2019, his promises to resolve the problems faced by people, AIADMK’s “core vote”, “anti-incumbency” against the DMK government and the incumbent MP, while Tamilisai believes the ‘Modi factor’, upper caste votes, and a sizable chunk of the middle class will vote for her. 

The 2.5 lakh votes garnered by Ganesan are a plus for Tamilisai, but a multi-way split of votes between the AIADMK and BJP might help the DMK, which has a strong and committed vote bank in the seat. 

Besides the alliance’s cohesiveness and party votes, Thamizhachi is also hoping that the women-centric welfare schemes and the Rs 6,000 financial assistance given by the DMK dispensation to those affected by floods in the city will bring women voters to her side, leading to her second straight win from Chennai (South). 

“It takes me more than an hour to cover an 8-km stretch from Velachery to Pallikaranai by car. Though there are three flyovers, the traffic jam hasn’t reduced; it only increases with each passing day. The government should focus on solving problems like traffic jams. Moreover, they should focus on interior roads too,” Ramya, a software professional in Medavakkam, told DH.

People want immediate re-laying of damaged interior roads and demand proper planning in the execution of infrastructure projects to avoid digging roads at regular intervals. 

Senthil, a businessman who lives in Adyar, says the execution of several projects in many parts of the city at the same time causes severe inconvenience to people. “Construction of the metro network, flyover, and laying of roads are taken up simultaneously. While we understand it is for the betterment of the city, it will be fine if they are done in phases,” Senthil added.

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Published 14 April 2024, 23:38 IST

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