Saturday, April 9, 2011

“Vote according to your conscience”

EAGER LISTENERS: A section of women at AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa's election campaign in Namakkal on Friday. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan
Asking people to beware of the “DMK's sly attempt to purchase democracy,” AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa has urged them to “think and exercise the franchise according to your conscience.”
“This is the golden opportunity to eliminate anti-democracy forces and the corrupt family rule of DMK,” she told voters while addressing a series of election campaign meetings in Salem district, including Sankagiri, on Friday. She alleged that the money seized from a bus in Tiruchi recently was to bribe voters in Srirangam from where she is contesting.
Engaging the huge crowd in an interactive mode at Sankagiri, Ms. Jayalalithaa said that she alone could maintain law and order. “Can Karunanidhi do it?” she asked the gathering, which gave a resounding “no.”
“Can he [Mr. Karunanidhi] bring the cable operation under the State? Will he and his family members allow the cinema world to function independently?” she asked, stressing that she alone could do these things.
Ms. Jayalalithaa listed the welfare measures she had executed when she was Chief Minister and said schemes such as cradle baby, rainwater harvesting, free bicycles and so on had truly benefited the poor.
In her regime, people never experienced power cuts and law and order problems whereas in the five-year DMK regime, lawlessness, rowdyism, land grabbing, and sand mining had become the order of the day and its “achievements.”
Ms. Jayalalithaa alleged that the welfare schemes of the DMK government such as Kalaignar Health Insurance and rice at Re.1 a kg had benefited just the family of the DMK chief and not the people, while addressing the meeting at Sankagiri.
She claimed that the health insurance scheme was offering Rs.1 lakh each as insurance for major surgeries. But, it did not cover diseases such as typhoid, malayria, cholera, jaundice, and chikungunya. “As the coverage is not comprehensive, many private hospitals have started opting out.”
Schemes such as the Re. 1 per kg rice had benefited hoarders of the ruling party and those who indulged in large-scale smuggling of subsidised rice. “The concrete house scheme has escalated the prices of brick, cement and steel. Even the prices of these construction materials are controlled by them,” she claimed, and asked people to “understand that all these schemes are benefiting one family and not the people.”
Accusing the DMK's Sankagiri candidate and Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam of indulging in ‘katta panchayat,' Ms. Jayalalithaa said that if voted to power, she would help the residents of Salem Angammal Nagar colony to get justice.
She also addressed a meeting at Ayothiapattinam and other pockets before concluding the day's programme with a meeting in Salem city.
Overall improvement
Namakkal Staff Reporter writes:
Ms. Jayalalithaa asserted here on Friday that the schemes introduced during her tenure as Chief Minister focused on overall improvement of the common man's living standards.
And “my manifesto for the coming elections is similar” as it aimed at the uplift of the people in the State, she said while campaigning for the candidates of her party and allies for the six Assembly segments in Namakkal district.

Constituency Profile: Jayalalithaa appears to be cruising along in Srirangam constituency

With her ‘homecoming' pitch, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa appears to have hit the right note in Srirangam, potshots from her detractors notwithstanding.

Excitement is in the air in this island town, bound by the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers, from where Ms. Jayalalithaa seeks to return to power in the State. If the mood among her party workers and enthusiasm among a sizeable segment of urban voters in the constituency are any indication, Ms. Jayalalithaa already appears to be cruising along.

“We are excited about having a Chief Ministerial candidate contesting here. Besides, we feel a sentimental attachment towards her. We hope for major improvements to the infrastructure of Srirangam, a major tourist/pilgrimage destination, if she is elected,” says R. Ganesan, a resident of the town. This is the refrain of a cross-section the urban middle class voters in the constituency.

But, at just 30 years of age and practically no experience at the hustings, N. Anand, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate, is putting up a spirited fight. The DMK has been trying to neutralise Ms. Jayalalithaa's advantage by raising questions over her accessibility to voters. “I am a local and will be at hand to sort out the problems of the people,” says Mr. Anand.

Ms. Jayalalithaa's claim on Srirangam being her ancestral town has also invited jibes from the DMK camp. “Why Srirangam failed to come to her notice before?” ask party campaigners.

Srirangam is perceived to be a safe seat for the AIADMK. Not because of the communal composition of its voters but largely on account of its electoral history, reinforced by the 2009 general elections when the segment tilted the scales decisively in favour of the party in the Tiruchi Lok Sabha constituency. The Srirangam Assembly seat has been won six times by the AIADMK since the party was founded. This time around the party's strength has been bolstered by the DMDK, whose candidate polled about 16,500 votes in the 2006 elections.

Yet, Mr. Anand exudes confidence that he will overcome the odds. “The achievements of the DMK government will see me through,” he asserts.

A major part of the geographical area of the constituency is rural, with just six wards of the Tiruchi Corporation and a few suburbs accounting for the urban segment. It is also a misconception that Brahmins are the dominant vote bank here. Muthreyars and Dalits constitute the biggest chunks in the constituency, which has an electorate of about 2.20 lakh.

Apart from expectations on better infrastructure, residents living on temple land look for a permanent solution to the problem in selling off their properties. The town does not have a proper bus stand and parking space for tourist vehicles.

The large farming community in the constituency is worried about the depleting water table as the Cauvery bed is being exploited for numerous drinking water schemes between Mayanur in Karur district and Tiruchi, says Ayilai Sivasuriyan, district secretary of the CPI-affiliated Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, and resident of Ayilapettai in the constituency. Construction of a check dam across the river to shore up the water table and renovation of the irrigation channels are prominent demands.

Jasmine and banana growers, susceptible to exploitation by middlemen, are looking for industrial units for value addition, says Natarajan, a farmer of Perur. The imposition of penalties on farmers growing horticulture crops using free power, in recent months, has only added to the resentment of the farming community, already hit by erratic three-phase supply.

Apart from the two main rivals, 21 other candidates are in the fray, including those of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and India Jananayaka Katchi. But, AIADMK leaders rule out any chance of a split in votes.

“The victory of Amma is a foregone conclusion. It is just a question of how big will be the margin. We expect Amma to win by a minimum of 50,000 votes and are striving to make it even bigger,” says P. Kumar, Tiruchi MP, one of the campaign coordinators in the constituency.

Constituency Profile: Sparks fly over host of civic issues in Thousand Lights

CIVIC WOES: Residents of slum tenements in Thousand Lights constituency want basic amenities such as public toilets. Photo: V. Ganesan
Thousand Lights, from where Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin won thrice since 1996, will witness a battle of two contestants who seem to be campaigning rather aggressively over the last few days.
Hasan Mohamed Jinnah of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is contesting elections for the first time. He will meet B. Valarmathi of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a senior politician who lost to the DMK's T.M.Anbarasan in Alandur in the 2006 elections.
Mr. Jinnah, a lawyer by training, is capitalising on what his associates consider “his image of an educated youth”, adopting the motto ‘For youth power, for real change'.
Attired in formals, he is accompanied by a team of youngsters on his door-to-door campaign. He has also been campaigning in the virtual world, through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Ms. Valarmathi, on the other hand, seeks to strike a chord with women and persons belonging to lower income groups.
Her side believes that her ability to connect with the masses and the perspective that she has gained from her experience in politics will come in handy.
She is accompanied by a party worker dressed like MGR, standing in a vehicle that has speakers blaring out popular songs featuring the actor, often with lyrics coloured politically.
The issues that have gained importance in the constituency include the need for allotment of pattas for residents of slum tenements, public toilets for women, increasing the frequency of the bus services and better regulation of traffic.
Thousand Lights is a constituency that spans localities of very different kinds — from those which are largely residential or partially-commercial to those in very close proximity to the city's perennially active business hub.
The constituency comprises Periyar Nagar – North (Chennai Corporation Division 76), Periyar Nagar – South (77), Nungambakkam (78 ), Ko-Si-Mani Nagar (107), Nakkeerar Nagar (108), Thousand Lights (109), Azhagiri Nagar (110), Royapettah (112), Teynampet (113), Sathiyamoorthy Nagar (114), Vadapalani – East (118) and Kalaivanar Nagar (119).
The constituency has a total of 1,92,206 voters. There are 95,640 men, 96,526 women and 40 others. There are as many as 203 polling stations.
According to councillors working in areas coming within the ambit of the constituency, some of the divisions are very small in size and are already chocking, leaving little space for any major infrastructure project.
Some parts of Royapettah earlier had issues with the supply of Metrowater, but locals say the situation has improved. A petition for an electricity substation in the locality is also being processed, officials of the civic body note.
There are several slum tenements within the limits of Thousand Lights constituency. Residents of portions near Nandanam and some stretches around Greams Road say public toilets are an immediate requirement.
Residents of certain other localities on either side of Pondy Bazaar point to parking violations, poorly regulated traffic and congestion as primary concerns.
“The Deputy CM has done so much for the constituency and people are very satisfied. There is a great degree of expectation from me as I am his successor contesting here,” Mr. Jinnah says.
Ms. Valarmathi, on the other hand, says she sees the DMK facing a strong anti-incumbency wave.
“People feel let down. They are shocked at the scams that have come to light. There are people who need basic facilities and I have promised to deliver those,” she says.
What They Say:
Hasan Mohamed Jinnah, DMK candidate: I have been worked for the party since my childhood. The reception I have been receiving from the people of the constituency is very warm and encouraging. The schemes of the government have reached everyone. People I meet are expressing their happiness and satisfaction. Things look very promising for us.
B. Valarmathi, AIADMK candidate: People are very disappointed with the previous government and see amma as the only hope for them. During my campaign, I saw them eagerly tuning into the television to listen to amma’s speeches. In this constituency, I will look into their immediate requirement of basic facilities such as housing and toilets.

Constituency Profile: Perambur, a big constituency with bigger issues

FACILITY COMING UP: The Vyasarpadi road over bridge project is one of the major projects being implemented in the Perambur constituency. Photo: V. Ganesan
Perambur, a predominantly working class area, continues to be one of the biggest Assembly constituencies in the city even after delimitation. It is no longer a reserved constituency.
The shifting of two big divisions of Chennai Corporation in Kodungaiyur from Tiruvottiyur constituency has brought in more voters into the Perambur constituency.
There are 2,20,654 lakh voters as per the final rolls published on January 10 as against the 2.70 lakh voters in the last Assembly election. The two Divisions alone account for nearly one lakh voters. Of the total electorate, 1,10,653 are males and 1,09,993 are females and there are 8 others.
Besides a large chunk of the residents who are unorganised workers, the constituency also has Burma repatriates settled in Sastri Nagar and Indira Nagar.
Though the roads in the constituency have been improved, there remain a lot of other civic issues that bother the residents. They include flooding during monsoon, lack of sanitation and traffic congestion. The residents also want the work on road overbridge near Vysarpadi vehicular subway on Erukkanchery High Road to be expedited.
The delay in arriving at a consensus on the integrated solid waste management project in Kodungaiyur is also an irritant for the residents.
P.Ganesa Perumal of Ever Vigilant Citizens Welfare Association said “We think that the project will not be a success. We have been fighting to shift the dumping yard from Kodungaiyur for several decades. Many residents of nearby areas are living in a polluted environment. Burning of garbage still persists. We want the civic body to implement area wise source segregation of garbage.”
A portion of Erukkanchery High Road near the Vysarpadi subway and Moorthingar Street are choked with traffic throughout the day. The slow progress of improving the micro and macro drainages in the constituency has also earned displeasure of the voters.
The Perambur constituency includes Chennai Corporation Divisions 1, 2 and 32 to 36 of Chennai Corporation - Kodungaiyur (West) (Division 1), Kodungaiyur (East) (2), Vysarpadi (South) (32), Vysarpadi (North) (33), Perambur (North) (34), Perambur (East) (35) and Elango Nagar (36).
S.Azhagan, a resident of Elango Nagar, said the area is plagued with problems of water stagnation and frequent sewage blocks. More fair price shops are necessary in as the existing ones are crowded.
Members of the Chennai Kudisai Vazhvor Nala Sangam complained that the elected representatives did not make any attempt to create awareness about the government schemes among the residents. D. Rajendran, the Sangam's general secretary and resident of Satyamurthy Nagar, said many people are unaware of the welfare schemes such as Chennai Metrowater's Rs.100 domestic water connections for lower income group and TNSCB loans for constructing concrete houses.
The drop in frequency of ordinary bus services to Vysarpadi has also added to the woes of the residents. Only deluxe buses are operated to the areas, he said.
Pointing out that many developing areas in Kodungaiyur are yet to get public transport connectivity, Kaviarasu Kannadasan Nagar residents like S.Pandurangan demand that the bus services operated till Mahakavi Bharathiyar Nagar must be extended to the terminus in KKD Nagar.
Though candidates of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have won many assembly elections in the past, Communist Party of India (Marxist) has emerged victorious in the past two elections. S.K.Mahendran, the sitting Perambur MLA of CPI (M), said that the addition of Kodungaiyur division has increased the middle class population in the area. “I have tried to solve the drinking water problem of the locality. The constituency is in dire need of a government peripheral hospital,” he said.
CPI (M) candidate A.Soundararajan and N.R.Dhanapalan of Perunthalaivar Makkal Katchi, who will be contesting on the DMK's rising sun symbol, are among the 20 candidates in the fray. Twelve independent candidates are contesting in the constituency that has about 230 polling booths.
Though a debutant, Mr.Dhanapalan is confident that the DMK symbol will help him to reach out to voters. “I am involved in educational and social service activities for the past two decades. I understand what their needs are,” he said.
Mr.Soundararajan plans to continue from where his party MLA has left.
“Mr.Mahendran has contributed to the locality's infrastructure development. I will implement works that have been left out be it covering more areas with piped water supply, improving the SWD network and desilting canals.”
What They Say:
A.Soundararajan, CPI (M) candidate: Many residents in each division have been demanding patta for decades. I will focus on this issue and drinking water needs. I plan to open more primary health centres in the thickly populated areas. The constituency needs another government arts college. I will focus on fulfilling the basic needs of developing localities. I will improve the condition of the Kodungaiyur canal to prevent inundation of the neighbouring areas during monsoon.
N.R.Dhanapalan, Perunthalaivar Makkal Katchi candidate: I will make a sincere attempt to develop the constituency on a par with the developed areas in south Chennai. I will address the problems pertaining to basic amenities and improve sanitation. People want speedy execution of infrastructure projects and I will keep this in mind. I have promised to get adequate space for a cemetery for Christians. I will strive to complete the Kodungaiyur integrated solid waste management project.

Depleting water resources, a burning issue in Vaniyambadi

It is a constituency with a significant rural population dependent on agriculture for a living but diminishing of water resources – including for drinking purposes – has turned into a mammoth problem for Vaniyambadi.
Unfulfilled civic needs, increasing pollution of the Palar river and absence of basic amenities in a number of rural pockets are some of the issues of the electorate.
Predominantly an agrarian constituency, Vaniyambadi has been plagued by problems of water sources for irrigation. Pullur, which is the starting point of Palar river in Vellore district, is now within the Vaniyambadi constituency. “The west of Vaniyambadi is the only stretch where the river is not polluted. It meets the water needs of industries and urban areas. As a result, there is over exploitation of ground water. The riverbed along Vaniyambadi and Ambur is polluted because of discharge from tanneries. The environment, agriculture and water sources are the three things badly affected,” observed Jamuna Thiagarajan, president of Vellore District Palar River Protection Association. Groundwater sources are diminishing slowly and farmers do not have water for irrigation purposes, pointed out R. Mullai, State Executive Member of Tamil Nadu Vivasaigal Sangam.
Sitting MLA H. Abdul Basith of the Indian Union Muslim League – an ally of the DMK – is seeking a second term from Vaniyambadi constituency. He is facing debutant Govi. Sampath Kumar of the AIADMK.

Vijayakant: cordial ties among allies

CROWD PULLER: DMDK leader Vijayakant campaigning in cuddalore on Friday. Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy
Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam leader Vijayakant has called upon people to wait for a month to witness a change of regime in the State as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam rule will come to an end by then.
He was campaigning here in support of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam candidate M.C. Sampath on Friday.
Mr. Vijayakant said that the partners in the DMK front were like water and oil, not mixing with each other while members of the AIADMK combine were like honey and milk, making a perfect mix.
He said that the show of unity put up by the leaders of the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi was not reflected at the grassroots level. On the contrary, cordial relationship existed among leaders and cadres of all the allies in the AIADMK combine. While the former banked on [currency] notes for their victory, the latter was totally dependent on the goodwill of the people. The large gathering at his campaign had caused jitters among the opponents, forcing them to pick holes in his behaviour. Had the DMK provided good governance, people would not have been attracted in such large numbers to his campaign, Mr. Vijayakant said. He pointed out that Cuddalore is the home town of Health Minister M.R.K. Panneerselvam and yet the hospitals faced problems of shortage of doctors, paramedical staff and medicines.
When encomiums are being heaped on Kalaignar Health Scheme why should Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin obtain treatment abroad? Does it mean that the State doesn't have the required specialists and medicines, he asked.
Bus shelter collapses
A bus shelter located near the ‘uzhavar santhai' here collapsed when too many people climbed over its asbestos ceiling to have a better view of Mr. Vijayakant's campaign. Four persons who suffered injuries were treated in the government hospital as outpatients.

75% booth slips distributed in Chennai district

Chennai: Seventyfive per cent of booth slips for the April 13 Assembly elections have been distributed in the city so far, District Election Officer D Karthikeyan said Saturday.

"For the 16 Assembly constituencies in Chennai district, 75 per cent voters have been covered so far..", Karthikeyan, also the Chennai Corporation Commissioner, said at a function here.

 He advised voters who were yet to receive their booth slips could obtain it from their respective polling booths tomorrow. Stating that there were 3,236 polling booths in the 16 Assembly constituencies, he said 1,510 had been identified to be "sensitive".

Among them, the 675 polling booths would be monitored by Election Commission directly through web cameras, while 495 polling booths would be recorded through video cameras.

The remaining 340 would be monitored by micro-observers, he said.

Chennai celebrates Anna's victory

Chennai, April 9 : Around 200 people participated in a prayer meeting at the Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya here and distributed sweets Saturday to celebrate the victorious end to activist Anna Hazare's hunger strike in Delhi against corruption.

 "We celebrated the victory and congratualated one another," V. Ravichander, a senior official at a city based human resource development company, said.

"This is not the final victory. The flame against corruption has just been lit. The media played an important role in this episode. What is significant is that the youths have got involved in the cause," he added.

Srinivasan Krishnaswamy, another participant at the event, told IANS: "Perhaps the government decided to accede to Hazare's demand fearing negative impact on the electoral prospects in five states."

He added that one should not blame only the politicians as there is always a black sheep in every profession - be it media, medicine, law or any other field.

Shanthi Rangaraj, a public sector employee, told IANS: "I have read about satyagraha in my school days. Now I was able to see a true satyagraha. I am really motivated."

According to BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, the government might have agreed to Hazare's demand fearing its adverse impact on the electoral prospects in assembly elections.

Hazare ended his 97-hour long fast Saturday morning after the government conceded his demand to include civil society representatives in a committee to draft the Lokpal Bill.

The government agreed to form a 10-member drafting committee that will include five members from the civil society and five ministers.

2G not loud in TN election campaign

Madurai: 2G spectrum scam, billed by the opposition parties as the single biggest issue in the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, appears to have taken a backseat in the high-voltage election campaign.

After raking up the 2G scam, which they termed as a "Himalayan Scam", principal opposition AIADMK and its alliance partner, DMDK, have now virtually dumped the 2G issue and have reverted back to their good-old topic of targeting the DMK’s first family and its "misrule".

Both AIADMK and DMDK, the second largest party in the AIADMK camp, are now targeting Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, his family and the businesses owned by the first family.

Only Left parties and BJP, which is contesting alone, still remember the 2G spectrum scam which the CBI is investigating now and arrested former Telecom Minister A Raja for his alleged involvement in the scam.

When Jayalalithaa started her campaign from the Temple Town of Srirangam, from where she is contesting this election, she made the 2G scam, which the CAG says had cost the country's exchequer Rs 1.76 lakh crore, the major issue of the opposition alliance's poll plank.

 But, two weeks down the line she just mentions the 2G spectrum in passing in her poll campaign. Instead, she devotes all her time in taking potshots at the DMK chief, his family and the "rise of rowdyism" during the past five years.

Campaigning in the southern districts for the past five days, Jayalalithaa concentrated on local issues and promised people of better law and order and a "better future" if her party is voted to power.

Besides, she also talks about the local issues, but the 2G scam comes only as a passing remark.

Political observers feel this could be a concerted decision by Jayalalithaa as she feels the 2G spectrum issue might not impress the people as she had expected. So, they say, she has started targeting her arch-rival DMK.

Irrespective of the place she goes, Jayalalithaa begins her speech by asking the people to "throw the family-centered DMK" Government out of power and "help liberate" Tamil Nadu from a group of rowdies.

"Power cuts for several hours is the only achievement of the DMK Government. To get freedom for Tamil Nadu from the Karunanidhi's family rule, to free Tamil Nadu from a group of rowdies and to ensure law and order in the state, please vote for the AIADMK combine," she said in identical speeches at Ramanathapuram and Theni districts.

In these speeches, she mentioned the 2G spectrum as a passing reference. But, in Madurai she took on Union Minister MK Alagiri saying that she will reopen the Ta. Kirutinan murder case and the Dinakaran attack case if she was voted to power. Alagiri was acquitted in the murder case.

Vijayakant also skipped the 2G spectrum issue during his campaigning in southern districts and preferred to tear into the DMK's first family. He was very critical of television channels Sun and Kalaignar owned by Kalanidhi Maran and the DMK's first family.

He also claimed that Karunanidhi was acting against the principles and the ideals of Periyar and late CN Annadurai. Not only here, Vijayakant has been taking potshots against Karunanidhi and his family in every part of the state.

"Karunanidhi and his family have started almost six channels in the past 3 years. Where did they get the money from?" he asks.