Ask voters in the trade-dominated Chickpet Assembly constituency what issues dominate their ballot this time, and you get a long and informed list of demands. These range from macro issues such as the threat of foreign capital and big business, to their day-to-day battles with garbage, incomplete civic works, choked roads and perennial potholes.

Unlike many other areas in the city, a walk through the seven wards that comprise this constituency reveals that poll fever has caught up pretty early. All major political parties have stuck their flyers on the outer wall of Chamanlal’s electricals and fitting shop off BVK Iyengar Road, the wholesale market for electrical goods. Multi-storey parking solutions, garbage and pothole-free roads and “trader-friendly policies”: these flyers are packed with promises.

‘Access is the key’

“They’re back with fresh promises,” said Mr. Chamanlal, who dismisses it all as old wine in new bottle. The forgotten promises of many elections have culminated in the infrastructural mess that the area is in. “Access is key. Today, all the shops here offer the best deals in the city, but the customer wonders if the saving is worth the trouble of driving through this horrible road or finding parking space.”

His brother, who owns a textile shop in Chickpet, said malls may be threatening their livelihoods, but it is this crumbling infrastructure that is truly driving them out of business. Ironically, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s new candidate — it has denied ticket to sitting MLA Hemachandra Sagar — is Garuda mall owner Uday Garudachar. His chief contender is Congress’s R.V. Devaraj, who lost by 7,000 votes in the previous Assembly polls. Ravi Kumar, a trader who lives in Sudamanagar, said a year ago there was anti-Congress sentiment on the issue of FDI in retail. “But, given the local nature of the election now, the main issue being talked about is infrastructure, traffic, garbage management and water.”

Civic amenities are a little better in the old residential layouts in Jayanagar and Visvesvapuram wards. But here too, increasing commercialisation over the past decade has put pressure on resources such as water and roads. But as rapid as change has been in these localities, the situation in nearby wards — the filthy but key Kalasipalayam market is a case in point — has remained constant.

Thimappa, who works in the flower market, points to the open drainage and garbage on the Arcot Srinivaschar Street, which connects some of the busiest wholesale markets in the city.

Women’s safety

Another key concern here is the lack of safety, particularly for women. Jayamma, who lives in Sudamanagar, said Chickpet has always been a “crime zone”.

“My daughter and I travel for work. And given that there’s always some theft, stabbing or even murder reported here, after dark, my husband comes and picks us up.”

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