More than one-tenth of the MLAs in Tamil Nadu have tested positive for COVID-19 till date. One DMK legislator J.Anbazhagan, who had co-morbidities, succumbed to the virus. On Sunday, the ruling AIADMK’s Sholavandan MLA, K. Manickam, was admitted to hospital, taking the number of affected legislators to 27.
Most of them contracted the infection while on the field distributing aid, attending to official functions or public hearings where personal distancing was compromised.
With Assembly election due in about eight months and the people reeling under the adverse economic impact of a pandemic, the elected representatives are compelled to be in their respective constituencies to meet people.
Mylapore MLA and retired IPS officer R.Nataraj insists on adhering to safety protocols. “Sometimes, people become complacent in taking precautions and some party men are offended when told that they cannot come closer,” says the AIADMK MLA.
“I tell them very strictly for their good and my good. I may have this (COVID-19) or you may have this and be asymptomatic and so let us maintain a distance, I tell them,” he adds.
Mr.Nataraj points out that this is also the time when people come to meet the MLAs for admission in educational institutions, for scholarships and help.
Dharmapuri MP S. Senthilkumar of the DMK, known for actively helping the needy through social media, says he connects with friends, well-wishers and representatives in reaching out to the people in need if their locations are closer to them.
Essentials could be mobilised at one place where people could come and take them instead of being distributed to them in a queue. “When I visit a village, I ensure there is no crowd,,” he says.
He acknowledges there is a difference between campaigning on social media and meeting people in persons. “People would want to meet their representatives or take photos with us. But, we always take all precautions,” he adds.
How challenging is it to meet people? “As for the DMK, we are on the ground from Day 1. Be it pandemic or otherwise, our leaders are on the ground all the time and working for the people,” he contends.
Manidhaneya Jananayaga Katchi leader and Nagapattinam MLA M. Thamimun Ansari, who has voluntarily quarantined himself since July 28, after four persons tested positive for COVID-19 in his area, says he has been coordinating with officials and people only over phone. “Some people, when told to follow physical distancing and wear masks, they don’t understand,” he says.
There are other challenges. “Even drivers are apprehensive of coming for work and hence we could not go for our visits. When elections are just a few months away, our visits are crucial. Also, there are some projects which we had planned for the last year. They have to be implemented and we have to visit the place,” he adds.