Lack of choice leaves disillusioned Chennai with Dayanidhi Maran

Dayanidhi Maran stands a chance of winning from Chennai Central. Photo: PTI

Former telecom minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s candidate Dayanidhi Maran might very well reclaim Chennai Central constituency.  Maran, who won from Chennai Central twice, before losing in the previous elections to All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s SR Vijayakumar, is poised for a prestigious battle.

In the fray with him are newers like Pattali Makkal Katchi’s Sam Paul from the AIADMK-led alliance, Kameela Nasser from Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) and Tehlan Baqavi of the SDPI, in an alliance with Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK).

While he has filed an appeal against the case by the CBI involving the misuse of telephone facilities during 2004-2007, resulting in a  loss of  over ₹1.78 crore to the exchequer,  the contest could still be easy for the 52-year-old. The constituency comprises Villivakkam, Thousand Lights, Anna Nagar, Egmore, Chepauk and Harbour TN Assembly constituencies, where DMK already has a formidable presence. Maran’s father, Murasoli Maran, represented the constituency thrice, and the battle is of the Maran legacy.

Familiarity pulling votes

In the lanes of Anna Nagar, the cacophony of poll campaigns have been rising and receding for the past few days. Prakash, an auto driver, who has been an AIADMK loyalist, has been stationed all morning to watch the party workers throw flyers and pamphlets into residential apartments. He says, “I think, I will also vote for the DMK this time. Amma (J Jayalalithaa) is not there and I have no clue about the candidate they have fielded this time. I might as well vote for someone I know about.”

Prakash is not alone. In Triplicane, Gopi, who works in a private company, has been voting for the AIADMK for more than 20 years. “But we have decided as a family to vote for the DMK this time. The AIADMK is not strong here anymore,” he says.

For Kannan, a clothes ironing man in Thirumangalam, Maran is far more trustworthy than an unknown face. “They all make promises, but how can we trust newcomers?” he wonders.

New faces put a tough fight

While Maran has the advantage of being a known face and a name to reckon with, entrepreneur-turned-politician Paul has been campaigning vigorously in the constituency, with the backing of the AIADMK. MNM’s Naaser, wife of actor-filmmaker Naaser, has hit the streets with other celebrities, like actor and filmmaker Sripriya, who are campaigning for her. She has been seen strategically reaching out to the womenfolk in the constituency, in a door-to-door campaign.

The SDPI, which put up a visible campaign in the leather hub of Periamet, has charted out a clear agenda for slum dwellers. It has a manifesto with clear plans for the resettlement of the slum dwellers, especially those who live on the banks of water bodies that are undergoing a facelift. Apart from concerted efforts to protect the rights of the poorest of the poor, it specifies promises on the amendment of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Act, 1971.

Poll josh missing

Venkat, a shop vendor from Broadway, wonders if there is an election around the corner. “There is no frenzy or even excitement in the air for the polls. It is very unlike this area,”
he says. He attributes it to the disillusionment  among people after the passing away of Kalaignar (M Karunanidhi) and Amma.

He adds, “Both of them ensured there was a dynamic political atmosphere. Now, who cares for these amateurs?” Some point out that they occasionally hear songs being played in a fast-moving auto. “If they are MGR songs, we know it is AIADMK and if it is someone talking about the rising sun, we know it is the DMK. Beyond that I haven’t bothered to find out who the candidates are,” says Manjula, a homemaker from Kilapuk.





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