Infrastructure improvement a dominant concern

Hopes of basic infrastructure being improved in a sprawling section of the metropolis "which has been neglected for long", appears to be the guiding spirit of North Chennai parliamentary constituency voters.

Though acute drinking water scarcity has caused frustration in residents, particularly in those living on the suburbs, they say no tangible steps have been taken to solve other major problems, some of which fall within the Centre's purview.

"Be it the demand for railway overbridges for smoother road traffic or a permanent solution to sea erosion, for long, North Chennai has not received the attention it deserves," laments a Royapuram resident.

Though the issues of parliamentary elections are different from those of Assembly polls and the representative in Parliament can only play a small role in thrashing out problems of roads, drainage and streetlighting, the contestants agree that the major problem now is drinking water scarcity.

Voters at Villivakkam, Ambattur, Perambur and Royapuram are vociferous that their long-pending demands for bridges at Padi and Villivakkam level-crossings and at Perambur have not materialised, despite representations. There is also pollution caused by industries in north Chennai.

"The most pathetic fact is that the Opposition party candidate will win the seat and always blames the ruling party for his poor performance. The voters are being fooled with false promises by contestants, but no railway over bridge/subway worth the name has been sanctioned in North Chennai for the past 12 years," says the Senthil Nagar Youth and Residents Welfare Association, Kolathur, summing up the voters' mood.

Considered a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam stronghold, like the other two constituencies north Chennai has elected the party's candidate in the last three elections. According to official statistics, DMK candidates polled 66.11 per cent, 47.11 per cent and 53.57 per cent in the 1996, 1998 and 1999 elections. C.Kuppusamy (DMK) is seeking a third term and his main rival is M.N.Sukumar Nambiar, (son of the film actor, M.N.Nambiar), of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A tough fight is on in the constituency, consisting mainly of middle and lower middle class and labour class voters.

While DMK cadres appear confident of their candidate being elected again, BJP volunteers feel equally assured that Mr.Nambiar will emerge victorious as he has the backing of a strong ally, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Mr.Kuppusamy says he can fall back on his earlier performance. He has completely spent the amount allocated under the local area constituency development fund on 490 works. "There is good response to my campaign". He would take steps for the construction of an "anti-corrosive wall", similar to the one put up at Nariman Point in Mumbai, along the Kasimedu-Ennore seacoast and widening of the Ennore expressway to ease traffic. He would try to ensure that a power project, to be put up by the Neyveli Lignite Corporation and the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd., and had been approved, materialises soon.

Mr.Nambiar says grievances relating to overbridges and seaerosion should have been redressed. He agrees that no part of a city or town or village should be neglected and assures the electorate that he would take steps to get the pending works implemented. He would look into the drinking water problem and consider the best solution.

"There is tremendous response wherever I go. People see me in a different way". His father's good name and his standing in the party will bring him victory. "By nature, I do not talk long. I believe in action. If elected, I will not disappear after the polls."

Total electorate: 19,97,524 (subject to publication of final list). Assembly segments: Harbour, R.K.Nagar, Royapuram, Thiruvottiyur, Perambur and Villivakkam.

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