Will Natraj block a Karate challenge in Mylapore?

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on January 20, 2018


Treasurer MK Stalin seeks votes for the Congress nominee Karate R Thiagarajan - Photo: KV SRINIVASAN

Former Chennai Police Commissioner R Natraj squares off against the city's former deputy Mayor

The Mylapore constituency in Chennai is a microcosm of what the city is all about – heritage, tradition co-existing with modernity, localities bursting at their seams due to unplanned development, dusty streets and the like.

There is the ancient Kapaleeswarar temple and a few other smaller ones, narrow streets surrounding each of them, old row-type houses, the Santhome church, fishermen colonies, slum clearance board tenements, chaotic traffic in most parts, old bungalows co-existing with high-rises, the verdant Nageswara Rao Park, and of course, the Buckingham Canal that passes through.

In the last two elections, the constituency has favoured the AIADMK – both MLAs were forward-caste candidates. In 2001, Mylapore surprisingly returned a BJP candidate – the BJP was then in alliance with the DMK.

Battling it out this time are the AIADMK’s R Natraj, a former police officer-turned-politician, and the Congress’ Karate R Thiagarajan, a former Deputy Mayor of Chennai who represents the DMK-led alliance. The BJP and the People’s Welfare Front too have candidates here.

‘A positive campaign’

In the old-looking building in Mylapore from where the AIADMK’s volunteers plan their daily schedule, Natraj is in a meeting with party workers, having finished the first leg of campaigning for the day.

How is the response, you ask him. “We can see that the government welfare schemes have reached the people. They are appreciating them and the response is positive,” he says.

An IPS officer of the 1975 batch, 65-year-old Natraj is confident that the AIADMK can accomplish a a hat-trick of wins from the constituency in the May 16 election.

Why did he want to join politics after three decades in the police force?

The urge to be active in public service, having interacted with the public and drawn up schemes for them all through his career, he says. And, the AIADMK is a strong, cadre-based party and its leader J Jayalalithaa is known for her bold decisions, he adds.

He insists that his campaign is positive, focussing only on the good that the government has done and on what he intends to do for Mylapore. Natraj says his foremost priority would be to restore Mylapore to its pristine glory, and ensure it is both clean and green. That will also bring in more tourists.

He begins his campaign by 6.30-7 am, meeting residents, talking to walkers on the Marina beach, greeting those at the Nageswara Rao Park. Each residents’ welfare association has its own, unique problem. He said he would try and meet each one of them, and also interact with those in the slum clearance board tenements and fishermen colonies.

Natraj’s promises

Traffic, says Natraj, is one of the biggest worries of the people. He recalls that as Chennai’s Police Commissioner, he had initiated a ‘Citizens for Safe Road’ campaign. He intends to do something similar for Mylapore.

Natraj hopes to make use of Mylapore’s high internet penetration – the constituency has the greatest web reach in all of Chennai – to reach out to people, create awareness and even take complaints through a dedicated app. Also, government offices in Mylapore would be made citizen-friendly.

Available always: Thiagarajan

For his part, Thiagarajan says he knows the area inside out. He studied in a Santhome school, which falls in Mylapore constituency. He has walked its streets right from his childhood.

And thanks to his stint as Deputy Mayor, he is aware of infrastructure issues too.

His campaign revolves around his accessibility and responsiveness, and that of DMK leaders such as M Karunanidhi and MK Stalin. Being an MLA, the karate exponent says, is like “108”, the emergency ambulance service that is available 24x7.

His priority will be to ease traffic congestion – a number of streets are narrow, there is scope to widen only a few, he says. The solution is in following the Bangkok model, which is to build flyovers even on narrow streets. He will also try to improve the lot of those living along the canal; the idea is not to evict them and relocate them elsewhere, but to provide them better housing in the vicinity itself.

Thiagarajan asserts his experience in city administration will help while dealing with the various departments and getting things done.

He too starts his campaign early in the morning, breaks for a couple of hours when the heat becomes unbearable, and goes around canvassing votes for another four-five hours in the afternoon. The DMK’s workers are pulling their weight.

The AIADMK had a head-start in campaigning as its candidate list was out much before others. But, the Congress and DMK are pushing ahead strongly after a slow start.

Published on May 06, 2016

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