Ground Report: In suburban Tiruvallur Lok Sabha seat, low income and sky-high prices taunt voters

Despite its proximity to Chennai, Tiruvallur is crying for better healthcare, transport, drainage, and water facilities.

ByNolan Patrick Pinto

Published Apr 12, 2024 | 3:00 PMUpdatedApr 12, 2024 | 7:11 PM

The Congress candidate is former Karnataka-cadre IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil while the BJP candidate is Pon Balaganapathy

An interesting electoral battle is on the cards in the Tiruvallur Lok Sabha constituency between the Congress-DMK alliance and BJP.

The Congress candidate is former Karnataka-cadre IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil while the BJP candidate is Pon Balaganapathy, who contested the 2021 Assembly elections and is no stranger to electoral politics.

The AIADMK has not fielded a candidate but in alliance with the DMDK, which has nominated former Egmore MLA K Nallathambi.

According to Election Commission data, the constituency has 21,04,020 voters. More than 30 percent of the voters belong to the scheduled caste community while the majority are from other backward castes.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Congress’ Dr K Jayakumar defeated the then incumbent and two-time MP P Venugopal of AIADMK.

With a mix of urban and rural localities, Tiruvallur has an average literacy rate of 83 percent. It was carved out as a separate constituency in 2008 after delimitation. It is comprised of six Assembly constituencies.

However, despite its proximity to Chennai, Tiruvallur is crying for better healthcare, transport, drainage, and water facilities.

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What voters want

South First met Senthamani Selvan, who runs a small hotel on the Madhavaram Main Road in Ponneri town. His main grouse is the lack of proper sewage systems, which he wanted to be addressed immediately.

He said, “There is no sewage system in our area. I have been in this constituency for more than 20 years. No proper roads in the localities as well. If the sewage system is fixed, everything will be good here.”

A good chunk of the population in the rural areas of the constituency survives on earnings from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

While they are happy with this scheme’s benefits, they are also hoping whoever wins from this constituency will be able to change the work timings to help the womenfolk.

Local resident D Nathan told South First, “They (women) have to get their children ready to go to school and also take care of the elderly at home. So, it will be easier if the timings to begin work can be around 9.30-10 am.”

He added that an increase in the amount being paid would also go a long way since the prices of vegetables and fruits had increased.

Residents of Veppampattu risk their lives every day due to the delay in the construction of a railway over-bridge (ROB) near the Veppampattu railway station.

The ROB has been under construction for more than 10 years, and residents of Veppampattu and Perumalpattu are forced to take a 5-km detour, causing significant delays.

This has also led to frequent accidents, claimed residents. “Three people died in an accident around six months ago. If this ROB is constructed quickly, it will be beneficial for the people,” said Anushya.

South First also met Devi, who was purchasing vegetables along with her daughter. When it came to development, she said despite shops popping up, infrastructure development was taking a backseat in the constituency.

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What can voters expect?

While these are some of the issues that need to be tackled on a war footing, campaigning by both the Congress-DMK alliance and BJP is going on full-fledged in this Scheduled Caste (SC)-reserved constituency.

Congress candidate Sasikanth Senthil campaigned on the Madhavaram Main Road in Ponneri, where he met his supporters and locals. He told South First that people should pick him, considering his experience.

“Tiruvallur is a very unique constituency. It’s a suburban and it requires a lot of prospective planning — somebody who understands the problems in a suburban area,” he explained.

“Since I have 10 years of experience doing that, that’s another plank from which I say that I might be the right candidate for you,” he added.

BJP candidate Pon Balaganapathy, was campaigning in Veppampattu when South First met him. He is focusing on unemployment and the development of infrastructure. However, his immediate priority would be to solve the sewage problem and incomplete railway works.

He told South First, “Pollution due to factories is a huge concern. We will hold talks with factory owners to stop this pollution. We need better rail connectivity. I will work towards that.”

While the campaign goes on, both candidates are trying their best to reach every individual to make known their vision for the constituency.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)