Mylapore constituency presents a picture of contrasts. A constituency inhabited by a significant population of the urban elite as well as a good number of persons engaged in daily-wage labour, Mylapore is seeing issues ranging from basic infrastructure requirements to livelihood issues come to the fore.
The contest here is between Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K.V. Thangkabalu, who emerged the Congress candidate after the nomination papers of his wife and official candidate Jayanthi Thangkabalu were rejected, and R.Rajalakshmi of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. Vanathi Srinivasan is the BJP candidate.
The constituency has not been a stronghold of either of the two major Dravidian parties. The last three elections have seen MLAs being elected from three different parties (N.P. Ramajayam of DMK in 1996), (K.N. Lakshmanan of BJP in 2001) and (S.Ve. Shekher of AIADMK in 2006).
Issues such as fisherfolks' concerns about eviction, livelihood, traffic congestion and inadequate basic infrastructure top the list of problems in the constituency.
Vice-president of the Federation of Tamil Nadu Fishermen's Unions S. Prema said fishermen living in Nochikuppam resisted the move to Semmancheri and Kannagi Nagar, as it is bound to affect their livelihood. “Proximity to the sea is very important and to evict fishermen amounts to denying them their right to livelihood,” she said.
The upcoming inner road from Nochikuppam to Kottivakkam has also worried fishermen who find it difficult to keep their boats safely along the shore, Ms. Prema added. Candidates estimate fishermen's votes to account for 20 per cent of the total votes.
With regard to traffic, residents of several localities in the constituency said that the introduction of one-way stretches had not helped reduce congestion.
Mr. Shekher, who was then with the AIADMK and now with the Congress, said an MLA working in any constituency will require the support of the Chennai Corporation and the Public Works Department.
Outlining the various initiatives he took as MLA, he said the constituency fund for the five-year period amounted to about Rs.7.35 crore. “A significant portion of the funds went towards basic requirements such as laying roads, building bus shelters and improving the sewer network,” he said.
A Chennai School in the locality and a multi-specialty hospital on C.P. Ramaswamy Road were allocated over Rs.1 crore each, he said.
Observing that Mr. Shekher had done some good work in the constituency, Mr.Thangkabalu said he would focus on transport facilities and look into the long-pending demand of a bus terminus in Mylapore. “Respecting the sentiments of believers, I will make sure that the temples are maintained well.”
The Mylapore constituency comprises Bharathidasan Nagar (Chennai Corporation Division 94) Vivekanandapuram (96 ), Alwarpet - North (115), Alwarpet - South (116 ), Bhemmannapet (142 ), Thiruvalluvar Nagar (143), Madhavaperumal Puram (144), Karaneeswarapuram (145), Santhome (146), Mylapore (147), Avvai Nagar – North (148), Raja Annamalaipuram (149) and Avvai Nagar – South (150).
There are as many as 220 polling stations in the constituency which has a total of 2,06,078 voters, including 1,01,326 men, 1,04,739 women and 13 others.
Another factor that candidates are conscious of is the significant presence of the Brahmin community in the constituency. Mylapore is perceived in political circles as among the few urban constituencies with a considerable Brahmin population.
R.Rajalakshmi, AIADMK candidate, said estimates showed that about 20 per cent of the residents were Brahmins. “Take a walk and you will find women wearing their traditional nine-yard sari or men wearing their religious marks on their forehead. They have remained in this constituency for years and their votes will certainly matter,” she said.
A lawyer by training, Ms. Rajalakshmi sees her steady growth in the party as her strength. “I have worked my way up in the party and Amma has periodically recognised my contribution. Residents of the constituency have great regard for her and I will live up to their expectations,” said Ms. Rajalakshmi.
Vanathi Srinivasan of the BJP, also a lawyer, said she sensed a very positive response during her campaign. “I have been an activist since my student days and I will take up important social issues and address them,” she said.
What they say
K.V. Thangkabalu, Congress candidate
I am a long-time resident of the locality and I am very familiar with the issues here. I will provide permanent housing for persons living along the Cooum, in their present locations itself. I will have polytechnics set up here to ensure more employment opportunities for the youth. Public toilets for women will be built and initiatives to encourage SHGs will be taken up.
R. Rajalakshmi, AIADMK candidate
I will ensure that fishermen's concerns are addressed and take steps and work with the traffic police to ease congestion in the locality. I think Mylapore has the potential of emerging as a business centre such as T. Nagar. If promoted internationally, it is likely to attract more tourists. The beach can be beautified without affecting fishermen's livelihood.