Saidapet: Debates on flood management steer election campaigns

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Saidapet occupies an important place in the political history of Tamil Nadu. DMK president M. Karunanidhi was elected from here in 1967, and in 1971 when he became the Chief Minister. This constituency was a DMK bastion till early 1980s, but AIADMK emerged victorious in 1984. The ruling power has emerged victorious in the last two elections. Rival parties DMK and AIADMK are campaigning hard to win back this constituency.

There are 2,79,207 voters in the constituency, which includes: West Saidapet, CIT Nagar, Jaffarkhanpet, Ekkaduthangal, IIT, Raj Bhavan quarters, Maduvankarai, Surya Nagar, Srinagar Colony and Kotturpuram. The constituency has a mix of upper class and middle class residents; a large working class population including employees of various government institutes like the IIT and Guindy Industrial Estate and people living in slums along the banks of the Adayar River. There are also pockets with a high concentration of minority communities.

Saidapet was one of the worst affected areas during the December 2015 floods. DMK had alleged ‘mismanagement during floods’ — an important political tool here — and the AIADMK is fielding C. Ponnaian instead of the sitting MLA G. Senthamizhan to evade possible anti-incumbency factors.

Candidates Independent Candidates
C. Ponnian (AIADMK) Anand V
T.R. Sagathevan (PMK) Kandasamy R.
M. Subramanian (DMK) Gokularajan C.
V. Kalidass (BJP) Shankar E.
Thomas C.  (LJP) Subramani K.
Manoharan M (NTK) Subramani M.
Murugesan S. (BSP) Soundarajan C.
Vishnuram M ( Youth and Students Party) Parthiban S.
Meena P.
Mohan N.
Rajasekar T.
Vishnuram S.

Know your candidates

Ponnian (AIADMK)

AIADMK’s candidate C.Ponnian, is a senior leader who was a minister in the MGR cabinet. He served as MLA from his native Tiruchengode constituency in 1977, 1980, 1984 and 2001 Assemblies. He promises to solve drinking water and garbage issues in the constituency. AIADMK is wooing voters with the promise that if the party comes to power, Ponnaiyan will be a minister and they would benefit from being in a minister’s constituency.

In a recent interview, Ponnaiyan said that he was confident of his party’s performance in the upcoming elections, given the work it has done in improving the overall economy of the State and implementation of welfare schemes. Asked about the Chennai floods, the leader remarked that “the common man knows that it was an act of God” and that “relief was carried out on a war-footing.”

Ma. Subramanian (DMK)

DMK candidate Ma.Subramanian is the former Mayor of Chennai Corporation. Raising the issue of floods, Subramanian promises to build flood protection walls along Adyar and set up storm water drains. DMK is hoping to gain from its alliance with Indian Union Muslim League and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi in this constituency.

Elumalai (CPI)

The PWA-DMDK alliance has allocated this constituency to CPI. The party’s district secretary Elumalai is contesting here. He has support among rickshaw unions, construction workers and government employees in the area. “The AIADMK and DMK have been winning the seat for more than 50 years, but Saidapet lacks even the basic amenities like drinking water, drainage and other civic facilities. If I am elected, I will serve people and fight for their issues,” Elumalai says.

Kalidass (BJP)

In the 2011 Assembly elections BJP candidate V. Kalidass was in the third position. He  had won 3018 votes i.e. 1.96% of total votes . BJP is campaigning here with the promise of development and prosperity like other BJP-ruled States like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

2011 Results

Candidate Party Votes Status
G Senthamizhan AIADMK 79856 Wins
M Maagesh Kumar DMK 67785 Loses
V Kalidass BJP 3018 Loses
S Chandrasekar MMKA 878 Loses
P M Pragalathan BSP 481 Loses


Key Concerns

Resettlement of slum residents, a contentious issue

Relocation of people living in slums along the banks of the Adayar river to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board houses is an important issue here.  Over 1,000 families were living in the Surya Nagar slum; most of them are now relocated to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) houses in Perumbakkam. “We have been living here for around 30 years; but we are not given pattas. Now, we are waiting for tokens to shift to the houses given by government at Perumbakkam,” says Susheela Veluchami (46) who was resting in the shade of a tree as it was too hot to stay inside her shack in the afternoon. The relocation has been halted as per the Election Commission’s model code of conduct.

After the residents were shifted, rows of buildings closer to the river were razed down. However, many from around 200 families who stay back in the area ask the government to give them pattas and allow them to continue living there. Vijaya Kumar, an auto driver, says “This settlement has been here for the last 70 years. It is only last year that we were affected by the floods.” Pointing to the residential apartments and commercial buildings nearby, he raises a relevant question: “These buildings are at the same distance from the river. How come they are given legal permission, and we are denied pattas?”

Madan Kumar (29) and Thyagaraja. S (26) who had shifted to Perumbakkam TNSCB houses three months ago say that it is difficult to find jobs in the area. “The buildings given to us have all facilities. But, we can’t find jobs there, and have to travel around 25km to come to the city to look for jobs. We have to spend money on transport and food to come here, even when we are not sure of finding work on that day.”  

Thyagarajan, who does painting jobs, says he hardly gets any opportunities these days, while Madan travels to the city regularly for work and finds it hard to make both ends meet. Vasantha V (56) who works as domestic help also sounded apprehensive of job opportunities in the new place. Most residents echoed the same concerns.

Last December as many as 1115 families from Atma Nagar and 1195 from Thideer Nagar were also shifted to the TNSCB houses in Okkiyam Thoraipakkam or Perumbakkam. Most of the residents who still remain at the slums are demanding construction of concrete houses and pattas, instead of being relocated to far off places.

More civic woes

“We are not given ration cards, but we have our voter IDs,” complained Ms. Susheela.  Apart from lack of access to PDS, the residents also complained that free uniforms and bags were not provided for students in the government school in the area under the schemes available to them.

At the same time, traffic congestion, increased commercialization of residential areas and delayed replacement of old electricity cables are among the issues raised by the residents of up market localities in Kotturpuram. Disposal of garbage and erratic supply of water also irks residents in many areas of the constituency.

Voting history

Madras state

1957 A. S. Doraisami Reddiar Indian National Congress
1962 Munu Adhi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
1967 M. Karunanidhi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

Tamil Nadu

Assembly Duration Winner Party
Fifth 1971-77 M. Karunanidhi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Sixth 1977-80 D. Purushothaman Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Seventh 1980-84 K. Saidai Kittu Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Eighth 1984-89 Saidai Sa. Duraisamy All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Ninth 1989-91 K. Saidai Kittu Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Tenth 1991-96 M.K. Balan All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Eleventh 1996-01 K. Saidai Kittu Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Twelfth 2001-01 V.Perumal Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Twelfth 2001-06 Radha Ravi All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
Thirteenth 2006-Incumbent G. Senthamizhan All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam


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