CHENNAI: Thousand Lights constituency, the DMK bastion, is going to witness a new player enter the ring for the upcoming electoral fight - the BJP. This is one of the two constituencies in Chennai, where the saffron party will be facing the Dravidian major head-on; the other being Harbour. Thousand Lights gains significance as DMK leader MK Stalin has been elected to the Assembly four times from here.
Stalin scored hat-trick victories (1996, 2001, 2006) from the constituency before he moved his battleground to Kolathur, where he will be seeking the electorate’s mandate for the third time, after winning in 2011 and 2016.
It is also interesting to note that he lost twice from Thousand Lights, in 1984 and 1991. Presently, the Thousand Lights seat remains vacant as the DMK MLA from the place, Ku Ka Selvam, defected and joined the BJP. Selvam was hopeful of contesting the same seat for BJP, but due to a turn of events, the saffron party decided to give the seat to actor-turned-politician and new entrant Kushboo.
Despite being in politics for a decade, Kushboo, who previously was with the DMK and Congress, did not get a ticket to contest in the Assembly polls. This will be her first time being in the electoral fray. While Selvam accompanies Kushboo to her campaigns, he has not been given any party post so far. The 50-year-old cinema star was previously expected to contest from Chepauk-Triplicane constituency against M Karunanidhi’s grandson Udhayanidhi Stalin, as she had been involved in intense groundwork there.
Kushboo will be taking on another first-time candidate, 41-year-old Dr Ezhilan Naganathan, a medical practitioner for 15 years, specialised in diabetology, infectious diseases, and preventive medicine. Ezhilan is also the son of former deputy chief of the State Planning Commission M Naganathan, who was known to be close to former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. As a staunch rationalist and advocate for social justice, Ezhilan has gained considerable recognition for his speeches on TV channel debates. Recently, following his nomination, many right-wing supporters on social media intensified their attacks on him for his views against superstition.
“I have been receiving criticism for my views for a long time, and it is only on social media. I just ignore them. I am a doctor and I believe in humanism and the Constitution of India, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of caste and other identities,” Ezhilan told Express. He said his opinions get a rousing reception on the ground. On the other hand, Kushboo, despite being with the BJP, maintains that she would stand for ‘secular values’. However, questions have been raised about how she would garner votes from minorities.
“In 2019, as many as 1.3 billion people voted for BJP to make it the single-largest party in the House. Do you think the minorities were not those who backed the BJP then? Claims on minorities not standing with our party is a false propaganda by the Opposition,” Kushboo said in a recent press meet.
While Thousand Lights constituency sports a diverse background of all sections of people from the lower, middle and upper classes, a sizeable number of votes from minority communities also fit into this from some areas around Royapettah and Teynampet. With 2,42,597 voters, the constituency covers areas such as Nungambakkam, Kodambakkam, Teynampet, and parts of Mambalam.
Ultimately, this election would also be fought on basic issues such as sewage, water, bad roads and employment in the constituency, just like anywhere else. While Kushboo is widely known for her silver screen fame, Ezhilan is fairly known among the poorer sections for his medical assistance and consultations. Both the candidates are actively campaigning on the ground. “I meet at least 10,000 people a day during my campaign.
There is a good welcome from the people, especially women,” said Ezhilan. Similarly, during Kushboo’s campaign as well, many women came out to take ‘Aarathi’ for her and also handed over their children to her for naming them. Paulin, a resident of Nakkeran Nagar, a slum-board colony, said issues such as sewage stagnation and erratic water supply are the main problems in the constituency. “Employment is also a major issue. Both my sons lost their jobs due to the pandemic and are at home,” she said. Voters also rued the traffic jams in the constituency.
Kushboo said that some of the issues that the residents placed before her were setting up metro water pumps, laying cement roads, CCTV cameras, and road must be neat, and she vowed to solve the issues. Meanwhile, Ezhilan said that issues faced by residents were sewage stagnation, bad roads and the poor state of government schools. He said he has prepared a separate manifesto for each of the 7 divisions in the constituency. He also said that the demands of doctors such as GO 354 for pay-hike would be implemented if DMK was voted to power.
- Ku Ka Selvam - DMK - 2016
- B Valarmathi - AIADMK - 2011
- M K Stalin - DMK - 2006
- MK Stalin - DMK - 2001
- MK Stalin - DMK - 1996