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Where poll issues range from prices of vegetables to economic policy Constituency Profile

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Ramya Kannan and Sruthi Krishnan

Most of the voters are vocal about issues affecting day-to-day life

CHENNAI: In a constituency where skyscrapers tower over slums, poll issues too range from the prices of vegetables to India’s economic policy. The candidates battling for the South Chennai seat have to address all of them.

The traditional South Chennai constituency, which comprised the semi-urban pockets of Alandur and Tambaram, post-delimitation has lost both of them. It now comprises T.Nagar, Mylapore, Saidapet, Virugambakkam, Sholinganallur and Velachery Assembly segments. Addressing infrastructure requirements in Chennai suburbs, which was on every candidate’s poll campaign during the 2004 elections, is not as relevant now. With the inclusion of Virugambakkam, and the IT heartlands Sholinganallur and Velachery, the candidates have an altered script to deliver.

Most of the 31 lakh voters in this largely cosmopolitan area are vocal about the issues that affect their day-to-day life: power, fuel, price rise and employment. BJP candidate L.Ganesan, who is contesting from the constituency for the first time, says South Chennai’s residents are exercised by the steep rise in prices of essential commodities. “The Centre has done nothing to help the common man… the people are suffering,” he says. A BJP government at the Centre will provide solutions to sober up the prices, increase employment opportunities, and cut long queues for fuel and gas connections, Mr. Ganesan adds.

Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam’s V.Gopinath is also campaigning about this issue.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s R.S.Barathi and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s C.Rajendran are key contenders in the race. Chennai South has the record for the highest number of candidates (44) contesting from Tamil Nadu this time around.

The constituency, which has predominant middle class population, is worried about finding jobs especially during the economic slowdown. “My daughter and son-in-law don’t have jobs. We can’t register in the employment exchange because they demand bribes,” says V.Pushpa, who works as a cook and is the sole breadwinner of her family.

Though water scarcity and power-cuts bother the bulk of the voters in South Chennai, the memory of flooding in the low-lying areas of Velachery and Sholinganallur is also fresh in the minds of the residents. They demand a solution to this. Mr.Ganesan says his agenda includes cleaning up the Cooum to facilitate free flow of storm water. Mr.Barathi promises to clean up the Adyar and the Buckingham Canal and safeguard the Pallikaranai marsh.

It is not as if the issues that matter to the public in this constituency are only local. Those who work in the IT belt and live in the same constituency are worried most about the state of the economy. Though they fret about infrastructure issues such as the lack of adequate public transport on Rajiv Gandhi Salai (OMR) and proper sewerage, the next government’s economic policies dominate water-cooler conversations among those inclined to vote.

“As these policies are Centre-driven, the profiles of the local candidates are not that important,” says N. Subramanian, a manager at an IT major. Recession has led to considerable benching in IT jobs and a sense of insecurity has crept in. Mr.Rajendran says: “Unemployment, especially among the IT professionals is a serious cause for concern. In a very short span of time, the employees have moved from a comfortable life to absolute insecurity. The AIADMK will ensure this scenario does not repeat itself.”

While political bigwigs have, in the past, taken the South Chennai route to power, May 13 will see voters contending with relatively unknown candidates, the exception being Mr.Ganesan. Whether the candidates will succeed at overcoming this hurdle by May 13 remains to be seen.

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