Express News Service
CHENNAI: Regarded as a DMK bastion, Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni, has emerged as a star constituency with the party fielding actor-politician Udhayanidhi Stalin, the party’s youth wing secretary and son of party chief MK Stalin, from here for the April 6 Assembly elections. Being one of the oldest localities, the constituency has people from different communities living in segregated pockets, unlike highly-urbanised localities.
However, a police officer said there is an old-world charm to the place as people from different communities continue to live peacefully together just like in Ramanathapuram district. He quipped that it is the outsiders who attempt to polarise the place for political gains. DMK’s J Anbazhagan represented the seat by winning it in 2011 and 2016. Before the unification of both the constituencies in 2011, DMK patriarch late M Karunanidhi held reins of the Chepauk segment for three consecutive terms since 1996, while Triplicane was won twice by the DMK (1996-2006) and once by the AIADMK (2006-11).
This time, the 43-year-old Udhayanidhi would be making an electoral debut by squaring off with PMK’s 61-year-old AVA Kassali, who had secured 1.75 per cent votes in 2016 polls. An elector said that sympathy factor due to the sudden demise of Anbazhagan, coupled with the popularity of Udhayanidhi and the party’s deep roots are factors that are in favour of Udhayanidhi. Speaking to Express, the PMK candidate alleged that the constituency had been made a DMK stronghold by pumping in money during elections.
“Even voters cannot be blamed due to their financial situation. Udhayanidhi is just seen as an actor and not as an able legislator. I am just relying on the people for my victory,” Kassali, a real estate businessman, said, claiming that he had already visited every single street in the segment and was well aware of the issues there. While Udhayanidhi’s rivals would bank on ‘dynasty politics’ plank, voters were more concerned about the issues in the constituency.
“People will give a befitting reply to the allegations of dynasty politics against the DMK. The AIADMK government developed hostility towards the constituency due to our party’s strong roots,” Udhaya said after filing his nomination.
Congestion is a primary concern here. Narrow roads and encroachments on platforms have forced pedestrians to spill over to roads and ensured a chaotic traffic movement. Four major roads, Pycrofts Road and Dr Besant Road running across the constituency horizontally and Quaide-Millath Salai (Triplicane High Road) and Bells Road running vertically, are congested due to mushrooming of encroachments on the footpath.
Other issues include delay in clearing garbage, stray cattle menace, water scarcity during summer, and the stench emanating from a sewage pumping station, which is located right next to a government middle school and Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children. A resident of Maattan Kuppam here lamented the lack of a playground for youngsters.