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Why the 'Sun' won't set in Chennai Central

April 23, 2014 18:13 IST

Why the 'Sun' won't set in DMK bastion of Chennai Central

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S Saraswathi/Rediff.com

For decades the Chennai Central parliamentary constituency has been voting for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and this election may not be any different, reports Rediff.com’s S Saraswathi.

The Chennai Central parliamentary constituency, formerly known as Madras Central, has been considered a bastion of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, especially for the Maran family. 

Former Union minister Murasoli Maran, father of the sitting MP Dayanidhi Maran, fought and won this seat for the first time in 1996 and then again in 2000.  After his death in 2003, his son Dayanidhi Maran, who inherited this constituency, took over and fought the 2004 election, winning by a margin of over a lakh votes.

In the 2009 election, he won yet again, but with a much smaller margin. His rival from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam camp got 252,329 votes to his 285,783, a difference of just around 30,000 votes. 

Now, once again, the battle lines are drawn and teh DMK is set to claim the seat for the third time in a row.

The Chennai Central constituency includes the following legislative assembly segments; Villivakkam, Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni (Triplicane), Egmore, Thousand Lights, Harbour and Anna Nagar.

Rediff.com’s S Saraswathi visited the constituency to find out which way the wind is blowing this year. Does the AIADMK have a fighting chance or will Dayanidhi Maran once again reign supreme?

Our first stop was Triplicane.

We met a 58-year-old woman who has been selling tender coconuts for over 40 years on the dusty roads of Triplicane. She proudly states that in all the elections she has voted for the DMK. 

"I have been a huge fan of MGR (actor and former Tamil Nadu chief minister Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran) but when I was a young girl, newly married, my husband, a strong supporter of the DMK, made me promise on the sacred fire (camphor lighted in front of the gods) that I would vote only for the Sun (Rising Sun, the DMK's symbol) and not for Two Leaves (the AIADMK symbol).  He followed this ceremony for so many years that these days I automatically vote for the Sun. I have to keep my promise,” she says.

When asked if she knew who her candidate was, she said, “I know it is Karunanidhi’s grandson, Dayanidhi Maran.”

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Image: A cut-out of DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai
Photographs: Babu/Reuters

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Why the 'Sun' won't set in DMK bastion Chennai Central

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S Saraswathi/Rediff.com

Moving on, we met a bunch of boys from New College, Royapettah, who will be eligible for voting for the first time this election, but they say they have absolutely no intention of voting. 

"We don't want the DMK or the AIADMK, and especially not the Congress or the BJP.  We are not very impressed with the AAP candidate either, they still have a long way to go. So, as far as this election is concerned, we are giving it a miss."

Next we caught up with a huge crowd of Muslim supporters of DMK outside a mosque. A 42-year-old government employee says that for the last 20 years he has only voted for the DMK. "Earlier I voted for Murasoli Maran, and now I am voting for his son."

His friend, a 43-year-old who owns a mobile phone showroom in the area, also echoes the same sentiment. "We feel safe under the DMK. The AIADMK have never been sympathetic towards us. All the Muslim votes in this area are definitely for Dayanidhi Maran. We are confident that he will win again for the third time. This seat will always go to the DMK.” 

As we spoke, a crowd gathered around to listen in and they all pledged their vote to the DMK.

A young auto driver, also a Muslim, who was watching the entire exchange, softly murmured as we passed by that it will be the AIADMK candidate who will win this year and not the DMK. 

Though reluctant to talk at first, this 24-year-old, said, "Amma (or Mother, as Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is known) will win the maximum number of seats this election. People don't want the DMK anymore. They proved this in the assembly elections and will do so again. I like Amma, she has done a lot of good, and will vote for her."

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Image: Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni (Triplicane) is one of the legislative assembly segments in the Chennai Central constituency
Photographs: Sriram Selvaraj/Rediff.com

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Why the 'Sun' won't set in DMK bastion Chennai Central

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S Saraswathi/Rediff.com

Our next stop was Thousand Lights, where we met another auto driver who had a completely different view. "Travel agencies charge exorbitant rates and fleece the customers, but nothing is done to regulate them. We poor people borrow money at huge interest rates and we are the ones who are targeted. The cost of living has become so high that we can barely survive. Now with all these new rules that have been imposed, we are totally destroyed. My vote this year is only for the DMK."

A merchandiser from the area too says he will vote only for the DMK. "For generations we have voted for the DMK, The year 2004 was my first election and I voted for Dayanidhi Maran, this year too I will vote for him.”

Another merchant from the area also supported the DMK and praised Karunanidhi (the DMK patriarch). “He has done a lot of good for the people. So many bridges were built and even the roads were in much better condition. Today there is only chaos and confusion, everywhere they are building something, but the work never seems to get completed.  The public finds it so difficult to get around.  We were better off during the DMK government. I will vote for them this election.”

Some distance away, a 24-year-old selling jasmine flowers, too, said she would vote for the DMK.

A 32-year-old housewife from this area was the only one we met who acknowledged the BJP. "We are Marwaris and we like only the BJP,” she said proudly. 

Her three teenage girls took after their mother and chanted 'Modi, Modi, Modi…'

“We no longer want the Congress government,” she continued amid the chants. “Modi will form the government and I want to support him. I will vote for the DMDK (Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, which is in an alliance with the BJP) candidate from our area.”

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Image: A DMK supporter outside Egmore railway station.
Photographs: Sriram Selvaraj/Rediff.com

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Why the 'Sun' won't set in DMK bastion Chennai Central

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It was only when we were leaving the area that we met an MGR supporter.  A 64-year-old woman and her daughter, who owned a tiny garment shop in the area, spoke of her love for MGR. "MGR started his party in 1972, and since then I have been voting only for him," she said. 

It did not matter to her that MGR is no more, “How does it matter?” she said. “Till I die I will vote for him.”

We travelled further to Egmore and stopped outside the ever busy Egmore railway station. 

There are several restaurants and travel agencies opposite the station. We spoke to the proprietor of one such agency, a 62-year-old, who turned out to be a hardcore supporter of the AIADMK. 

“You just wait and watch, the AIADMK will sweep the polls. We cannot have people who destroyed the state back. Together with the Congress, who destroyed the nation, they have totally ruined us. If for another five years the government is left in their hands, nothing will be left,” she said.

“Once every two weeks, petrol and diesel prices are hiked, this raises the cost of all commodities. It is becoming impossible to survive these days. The DMK will once again support the Congress and it will be a shame if people continue to believe in their false promises and vote for them. But I believe that their time is up. Dayanidhi Maran will lose this year. The DMK will lose all the seats. If only the AIADMK had an alliance with the BJP, then without any doubt we would have won all the 40 seats," she added

And not surprisingly, we met several others, a restaurant manager, a tea shop owner and a young boy at newspaper mart, who said they will support the DMK, but did not want to elaborate further.

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Image: But not everyone thinks the DMK will win this time. A proprietor of a travel agency in Egmore felt the AIADMK will sweep the polls in Tamil Nadu.
Photographs: Sriram Selvaraj/Rediff.com

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A 40-year-old businessman from Thirunelveli talked in great length about the Congress. 

“Only the Congress can form a stable government at the Centre. They have proved this in the two terms they have served. This despite all the troubles they had with their alliances. If it was the BJP, they would never have completed the term. Even today, if the BJP comes to power we will have to have re-elections. We all know what happened to Arvind Kejriwal (former Delhi chief minister).”

Talking about the situation in Tamil Nadu he says, “I belong to the Muslim community and the DMK always has our support. As far as TN is concerned, 75 percent of the Muslims will vote for the DMK. Besides, we do not want the BJP at the centre, the AIADMK will eventually support the BJP and we are totally against that.”

A 45-year-old government employee at the bus stop summed it all up for us rather nicely. Though he was not from this constituency, he was eager to share his opinion.

“For generations, many of the people from TN have been voting for the same party, irrespective of the candidate or his past, be it good or bad. People only know Karunanidhi as the 'Sun' and MGR (not Jayalalithaa) as 'Two Leaves'. That is why most of the candidates in TN win by a very narrow margin. They are all fixated on some ideology, principle or candidate that appealed to them decades ago and out of a sense of misplaced loyalty.”

“They do not take into consideration the changing times or faces or what the party stands for now. So, obviously, this year too Dayanidhi Maran will win in Chennai Central and Jagathrakshakan (the DMK candidate from the Sriperumbudur constituency, which is also a DMK stronghold) will come to power.  People don't know any better.”

When asked about his preference this election, he said, “I honestly have not decided as yet. I read the papers, talk to people, argue, discuss, but still have not been able to make my choice. Just a few more days to go, so I have to decide soon.”

This year 43 candidates are contesting from the Chennai Central constituency, of whom 28 are Independent candidates. Besides sitting MP Dayanidhi Maran, there is SR Vijakumar from the AIADMK, Constandine Ravindran from the DMDK and J Prabhakar of the AAP.

Sadly, most of the people in the constituency do not recognise or even know the names of candidates besides Dayanidhi Maran.


Image: 43 candidates are contesting from the Chennai Central constituency, of whom 28 are Independent candidates
Photographs: Sriram Selvaraj/Rediff.com

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