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February 9, 1998


Constituency Profile/Madras Central

Murasoli Maran has things easy

N Sathiya Moorthy in Madras

If someone is sitting pretty in the coming election, it is Union Industry Minister 'Murasoli' Maran, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate in the Madras Central parliamentary constituency for a second time in a row.

"We are sure to win, and we are working only to increase the victory margin for him," says Sekar in the Pudupet area of the city. But another DMK activist in the Chepauk assembly segment, Samsuddin, is more realistic.

"We do not have the 'anti-Jayalalitha wave' that helped us across the state last time. So we are working harder to retain that victory margin," he says.

Maran polled over 400,000 votes in 1996 against the 123,000 votes cast in favour of G K J Bharathi. The little known Congress candidate did better than expected due to AIADMK support. That election, 21,000 votes were polled by the MDMK, 20,000 by the BJP and 7,600 by the PMK. All these parties are now allies of the AIADMK, but the DMK is still streets ahead in the three-concerned contest. Even the increase in the electorate, up from 10,36,649 to 12,03,849, is expected to help only the DMK.

"There is no reason why I should vote against Maran, who was my favourite even last time," says S Nandakumar, a double-graduate in engineering and management in the Thousand Lights assembly segment. "He has been a good industry minister, and a no-nonsense man at the state-level." Though, he too, like the AIADMK's Selvarathinam of Chetput, says nothing, much has been done to improve civic amenities after the DMK won the municipal election in 1996.

Maran's cousin and party president M Karunanidhi's son, Madras Mayor M K Stalin's Thousand Lights assembly segment as well as the chief minister's Chepauk segment fall within the constituency's precincts. Karunanidhi's Man Friday, Electricity Minister 'Arcot' N Veeraswamy holds the Anna Nagar assembly seat while Deputy Speaker 'Parithi' Illamvazhuthi is the DMK man from Egmore.

Though, for a 'VIP constituency', Madras Central has gained little in real terms, the voters seem to have no complaints. Maran is the only parliamentarian from the state to have expended the Rs 10 million 'constituency allowance', fully and effectively.

The fact most comforting for the DMK is the absence of a real challenger in any of Madras's three Lok Sabha constituencies.

The AIADMK has settled for former state minister D Jayakumar, one of its few leaders who are not involved in big controversies. But Jayakumar's own assembly segment, which he lost in 1996, falls in the neighbouring Madras North constituency. And in Madras Central, he does not have even the backing of his fishermen's community he had in his native seat.

What is more, Jayakumar cannot get support from his party's organisers in Madras Central nor from poll allies like the BJP and MDMK, whose cadres are focussing on their own constituencies in the city.

The only person who can reduce Maran's victory margin is R Anbarasu, the Congress nominee. Anbarasu, who won the seat in 1989 and 1991, shifted his constituency last time, ducking under the anti-AIADMK wave that hit the Congress as well.

Anbarasu is well-known and more approachable than most politicians. But the absence of a good following, a sizeable part of which went to the Tamil Maanila Congress when it split from the Congress, has put a spanner in his works.

Maran entered the electoral arena in 1967, bagging a Lok Sabha seat, when party-founder C N Annadurai quit his parliamentary seat to become the first DMK chief minister. Despite what seems like a fait accompli, Maran has not taken things easy and has been roaming his constituency ever since the Lok Sabha was dissolved.

The DMK's election campaign began in Madras Central, when Karunanidhi and Maran toured the constituency together. Maran hopes to cover his entire constituency before Monday next, February 16, when polling is scheduled.

Whether or not he becomes a central minister again, his constituents see Maran as a benevolent minister, who has done much for the state, if little in particular for them.

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