‘Silent’ Baalu eyes clean sweep in Sriperumbudur

First, Baalu emerged victorious here in 2019 with a whopping 56.53% share of votes. Second, though he faced anti-incumbency from a section of voters, the wind was in his favour as the constituency is a DMK stronghold.
DMK had won here in nine out of the past 15 elections. Plus, all six assembly segments are being held by the DMK alliance.
DMK had won here in nine out of the past 15 elections. Plus, all six assembly segments are being held by the DMK alliance.Photo | D Sampath Kumar

CHENNAI: The poll vehicles of the DMK hit the streets of Sriperumbudur early in the morning and go around till 9 am. The candidate, 82-year-old party treasurer and sitting MP, TR Baalu remains silent at all the campaign stops while his junior leaders do all the talking. However, when it comes to his prospects, there is an air of supreme confidence in the team for several reasons.

First, Baalu emerged victorious here in 2019 with a whopping 56.53% share of votes. Second, though he faces anti-incumbency from a section of voters, the wind is in his favour as the constituency is a DMK stronghold. The party had won here in nine out of the past 15 elections. Plus, all six assembly segments are being held by the DMK alliance. Finally, his opponents, including AIADMK’s G Premkumar and VN Venugopal of TMC (part of the NDA alliance), are debutants in electoral politics.

The six-time Lok Sabha MP had made Chennai South his turf for the four elections from 1996 to 2004. He shifted to Sriperumbudur and won from the constituency in 2009. In 2014, he contested from his native Thanjavur but lost, and returned to Sriperumbudur in 2019. This is his first re-election bid from the constituency, the largest in the state with over 23 lakh voters.

While the TMC cadre are putting in a lot of effort to win the seat, it looks like the AIADMK has given up even before the battle began. Premkumar refused to talk to TNIE on his vision for the constituency and his party workers said he has been asked not to speak to the media or address any poll campaign on his own.

The constituency is an industrial hub of Tamil Nadu. Its automobile and electronics industries have placed the state on the national map in industrial exports. As per minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, who campaigned for Baalu recently, the DMK government has attracted over Rs 60,000 crore worth investments to the constituency from 40 companies.

Despite these achievements, the region is in dire need of government intervention to address critical infrastructure gaps that have contributed to flooding, drinking water scarcity and poor transport connectivity. Residents are clamouring for better roads, increased train services, and extension of the metro rail to ease travel woes.

As there is also a significant expanse of farmland in several pockets here, enhanced irrigation infrastructure also comes up as a major demand from the residents.

Sriperumbudur stands out as a unique parliamentary constituency in the state, boasting numerous industrial estates like Thirumudivakkam, Pillaipakkam, Oragadam, Irungattukottai, Sunguvar Chatram, Manapakkam, and more. Inundation during the Northeast monsoon has become frequent for many areas in Pallavaram, Tambaram and Alandur due to inefficient water management systems.

Further, the Tambaram railway station, serving as a vital gateway to the capital, lacks essential amenities such as lifts, CCTV surveillance, and sheltered platforms, inconveniencing commuters, particularly senior citizens.

V Santhanam, a social activist, said though an announcement was made that the Tambaram railway station would be upgraded as a third terminal to help people from southern districts get better connectivity, not much progress has happened in the past 15 years. “There are no lift facility in platforms 5, 7 and 8, where many express trains arrive. Senior citizens and disabled people are struggling to reach the platform and this should be addressed immediately,” he said.

S Guhan, a former football player in the Chengalpattu district team, voiced his concern about the absence of sports stadium, both indoor and outdoor, in the constituency.

Water scarcity is a major concern for residents as many lakes in the area are neglected and suffer from poor maintenance of supply channels. TN Ashokan from Manimangalam said there are more than 12 significant waterbodies here, including those in Manimangalam, Chembakkam, Chitlapakkam, Vedanarayanapuram, and Pallavaram. Inefficient water management leads to inundation during monsoon and scarcity during summer, he added.

Areas in Tambaram, Pallavaram, and Alandur face inadequate drinking water supply and struggle to meet their domestic water needs for around six months each year. He claimed that if these channels were properly looked after, the drinking water and flooding issues would end.

The constituency’s industrial sector, encompassing MSMEs to major companies like Hyundai, faces its own set of challenges. KE Raghunathan, national chairman of the Association of Indian Entrepreneurs, told TNIE, “The last six years witnessed several important hurdles to business such as demonetisation, GST implementation, economy slowdown, Covid-19 lockdowns, and government interventions. The suffering of micro and small enterprises and increasing unemployment rate were so evident.”

R Selvam, vice president of the Thirumudivakkam Industrial Estate Manufacture Association, stressed the need to set up export facilitation centres in the region. He emphasised the need for an advanced training centre to keep up with the rapidly changing technology in the manufacturing sector.

Additionally, the residents of Chrompet have been facing difficulties due to the absence of a proper subway to cross the railway line. The construction of the subway at LC-26 has been pending for many years. C Murugaiyan from the civic welfare association of Pallavaram municipality stressed the urgent need to complete the work.

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