Chennai North has been considered a safe seat for the DMK. In 2019, its candidate Kalanidhi Veeraswamy won the seat by beating AIADMK’s TG Venkatesh Babu with a solid vote share of 62 per cent. However, this time, issues like industrial pollution and floods could mar the DMK’s prospects in the constituency.

The incumbent Veeraswamy will take on AIADMK’s local heavyweight R Manoharan (Royapuram R. Mano), who was formerly with the Congress, and the BJP’s legal wing president, RC Paul Kanagaraj.

Both the AIADMK and the BJP are highlighting the lack of development work, mishandling of the December floods, and dynasty politics in the constituency. The issue of the free flow of drugs and high unemployment are also major issues in the constituency. Tamil Nadu will go to the polls on April 19.

Vada Chennai (North Chennai) is a densely populated and industrialised constituency. There are six Assembly segments: Tiruvottiyur (DMK), Kolathur (DMK), RK Nagar (DMK), Perambur (DMK), Royapuram (DMK), and Thiru Vi Ka Nagar (DMK). Kolathur is represented by Chief Minister MK Stalin. In the past 16 Lok Sabha elections, DMK has emerged victorious 11 times.

Veeraswamy, a plastic surgeon and son of party veteran Arcot N Veeraswamy, a former State minister for electricity and health, is harping on the development works undertaken by the State government in areas like Kolathur and Perambur. However, he is having difficulty convincing residents in the coastal regions of Royapuram and Tiruvottiyur, which have been severely impacted by both industrial pollution and the December floods.

Growth Gap

A drive through the constituency gives a stark contrast in terms of development. Areas like Kolathur (which also witnessed flooding), Perambur, and, to a certain extent, Vyasarpadi are well developed, with good roads and large commercial and residential buildings. ‘We don’t have any major complaints against the State government,” said G Santosh, who owns a tea stall in Perambur. It was a similar sentiment expressed by the 70-year-old K Manickam, a street vendor.

However, after a 20-minute drive on congested roads towards the coastal regions of Royapuram, RK Nagar, and Tiruvottiyur, things are different. People complain about the lack of drinking water, cleanliness, and industrial pollution, which is a major issue in the constituency. “The government did not help us when things were really bad,” said Kathiresan, a resident of Tiruvottiyur, referring to the floods.

Royapuram and RK Nagar are strongholds of the AIADMK, with strong backing for the party’s candidate, ‘Royapuram’ Mano. There is also discontent in Tiruvottiyur, which has a strong labour force, due to issues related to pollution and the recent ammonia gas leak following the floods. “The DMK failed to address these issues,” said Asaithambi, a fisherman.

The Kosasthalaiyar river breaches every time there is heavy rain. The 136-km Kosasthalaiyar originates near Pallipattu in Thiruvallur district and drains into the Bay of Bengal. Every monsoon witnesses suspension of work at the various container freight stations (CFS), especially those situated on the Thiruvottiyur-Ponneri-Pancheti Road road due to inundation, said an official of a large CFS.

Mano criticised the DMK for not addressing long-pending civic issues. His election slogan is ‘Vada Chennai Valamaagida (North Chennai to prosper), wherein he has chalked out specific plans to address various long-neglected issues to develop the constituency on a par with Chennai South and Chennai Central.