LS polls 2024: Tough fight on cards in Tamil Nadu's Tiruvallur

Voters say the area remains underdeveloped as no native is given a chance in the fray; key demands include setting up of govt arts & science colleges, outer and inner ring roads
Farmers ploughing with the help of oxen in a vast farm land at Thiruvallur in Chennai
Farmers ploughing with the help of oxen in a vast farm land at Thiruvallur in Chennai(Photo | Harini Nachiyar S, EPS)

CHENNAI: Located on the northern end of Tamil Nadu, Tiruvallur has the tag of being the ‘number one’ constituency (geographically) of the state in the Election Commission’s list. It represents a microcosm of the state with a mix of urban areas, agricultural land, and a rich coastal ecosystem.

After the 2008 delimitation exercise which gave shape to the existing constituency, Tiruvallur has favoured the AIADMK in the first two elections. In 2009, DMK and AIADMK directly locked horns and the latter’s P Venugopal won with a margin of 31,673 votes.

He secured victory again in 2014 when the DMK had left the constituency to its alliance partner VCK. This time, the margin expanded to 3.23 lakh votes. However, the leader couldn’t hit a hat-trick as the DMK-led alliance rode an anti-incumbency wave and capitalised on rifts within the AIADMK to sweep the 2019 election. K Jayakumar from Congress party defeated Venugopal with an even higher margin of 3.57 lakh votes.

This time, neither of the Dravidian parties are directly in the fray as AIADMK has given the seat to its ally DMDK and Congress has retained it in the DMK-led alliance, albeit with a new candidate. In fact, all three major candidates, including the BJP, lack roots in the district, placing the burden on the electorate to assess the comparatively-new faces.

A voter said, “Despite being located close to the capital city and enjoys the presence of some industries, the place remains underdeveloped, compared to Chennai’s suburban areas like Tambaram, as the ‘sons of the soil’ are not given a chance to contest. The constituency doesn’t even have outer and inner ring roads to reduce traffic in the town.”

The constituency comprises Gummidipoondi, Tiruvallur, Ponneri (SC), Poonamallee (SC), Avadi, and Madhavaram assembly segments.

Despite an anti-incumbency wave due to sitting MP Jayakumar’s alleged lack of engagement with the public and party cadre, Congress seems to have an edge in the constituency as the incumbent has been replaced with former IAS officer Sasikanth Senthil. AIADMK’s decision to not contest directly might also favour the DMK alliance.

A top office-bearer of an alliance party of the DMK said, “The incumbent MLA took a few initiatives like starting desilting work at Pazhaverkadu estuary, but they didn’t materialise in his tenure. A section of DMK and Congress cadre were also discontent as the MP was not approachable. However, all are happy with the parties’ decision to field a new face.”

DMDK, in alliance with the AIADMK, has nominated former Egmore MLA K Nallathambi while the BJP has fielded Pon V Balaganapathy.

Though Tiruvallur is a reserved constituency with more than 30% of the voters belonging to the SC community, there is also a significant population of the MBC community of Vanniyars, especially in places like Gummidipoondi. It remains to be seen if the BJP, which is in alliance with the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) that holds a significant sway over the Vanniyar vote bank, can transfer votes from its ally. The BJP seems to have support among land-owning farmers too.

Despite being in the AIADMK-led alliance, Puratchi Bharatham, a party which is popular among a section of Dalits in the constituency, delayed extending its support, allegedly as they were upset over the seat allocation to DMDK. Party president Jagan Moorthy announced support on April 3. An AIADMK functionary said, “There are difficulties in popularising the ‘murasu’ symbol of DMDK among cadre. If we were contesting directly, I would have been sure of our victory. However, as there is widespread discontent over the last Congress MP’s performance, we still have high chances.”

The key issues in the constituency include the absence of any arts and science colleges in Tiruvallur town, pending demand for an overbridge at Veppampattu and Sevvaipettai railway level crossing, inadequate construction of check dams to store water helping agriculture, and lack of facilities within the district’s industrial estates. Another key demand is to make more express trains stop at Tiruvallur.

Several students, especially girls, dropout after school in areas around Tiruvallur as they have to travel a long distance to government arts and science colleges. S Krishanaveni (40) from the town said that she dropped out after Class 12 due to lack of government colleges nearby. “Since my family belonged to a lower economic background, my parents were not willing to send me to a private college or let me travel. I got married two years after completing school. My children are now travelling to Chennai for their higher studies,” she added.

The district has industrial estates in Gummidipoondi, Thirumazhisai, and Kakkalur. “The elected representative should take steps to bring large-scale factories which would increase job opportunities for us. The infrastructural issues such as flooding during monsoon, lack of proper roads and street lights and unannounced power cuts should be addressed,” said Baskaran, secretary of Kakkalur Industrial Estate Manufacturing Association. This apart, residents also want underground drainage and stormwater drainage in Uthukottai, Tirumazhisai and Kakkalur areas to be completed soon.

“Another key concern is the proposed expansion of Kattupalli port by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ). The project should be stopped as it poses a great risk to the Pazhaverkadu region. It would adversely impact the fishermen and the whole district as the natural flow of water into the sea will be affected,” said Durai Mahendran of the Tiruvallur District Traditional United Fishermen Association.

No native in the fray

Neither of the Dravidian parties are directly in the fray this time as AIADMK has left the seat to its ally DMDK and Congress has retained it in the DMK-led alliance, albeit wAith a new candidate. In fact, all three major candidates, including the BJP, lack roots in the district

2014 LS results

  • Venugopal P (AIADMK) - 6,28,499

  • Ravikumar D (VCK) - 3,05,069

  • Yuvaraj V (DMDK) - 2,04,734

  • Margin: 3,23,430

2019 LS results

  • K Jayakumar, Congress - 7,67,292

  • P Venugopal, AIADMK - 4,10,337

  • M Logarangan, MNM - 73,731

  • Margin: 3,56,955

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