J Sivaprasanna Kumar Chennai, Mar 31 (PTI) This might be a battle between a popular star and a medical doctor known for his strong Dravidian ideology but BJP's Khushbu Sundar and DMK's Dr N Ezhilan have based their fight on development in the city's Thousand Lights constituency for the April 6 Assembly polls.
As an interesting aside, the candidates of all major parties in the fray--DMK, BJP, AMMK, veteran star Kamal Haasan-led MNM and Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK), helmed by another actor Seeman, are all making their electoral debut from here, known as 'Ayiram Vilakku' in Tamil.
Although Sundar has been in active politics for long, initially in DMK and then in Congress before switching over to the saffron party recently, this is the first time she is taking the electoral plunge.
More than the star power or ideological war, developmental issues dominate the keenly watched contest between Sundar and Ezhilan as both vie with each other in connecting with the people in the constituency promising more amenities and development.
Despite its multicultural tag, the Thousand Lights assembly constituency, a segment of the Chennai Central Lok Sabha seat, is conspicuous by its rich poor divide.
It accommodates swanky commercial buildings and residences of actors and political leaders and also has good number of slums and some decrepit housing board apartments.
Civic amenities and pucca infrastructure continue to be a long pending demand of the people in this constituency.
Sundar, whose presence in the electoral fray has transformed this segment into a 'star' constituency with the likes of Union Minister Smriti Irani campaigning for her, is hopeful of ensuring the smiles on the faces of the people of this constituency.
During her intense campaign, she patiently listens to people's problems and assures to improve roads, provide drinking water and improve the drainage facility.
Mixing of sewage water with drinking water is another problem confronting the people here.
With the warm hugs from many women during her campaign trail, Sundar who also christens babies, assures that the people's voice, particularly those of the women and girls, will be heard in the assembly if she is elected as a legislator.
The BJP is fighting the polls in alliance with the ruling AIADMK.
Her rival candidate Ezhilan, who has a plan to provide playgrounds with turf and community halls, is keen on establishing libraries and eco-parks in Thousand Lights.
Vaidhyanathan N, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam candidate contesting on pressure cooker symbol, blames both the Dravidian majors for neglecting development in the constituency. AMMK is led by TTV Dhinakaran.
MNM candidate K M Shariff and NTK's Sherine A J, too, like Sundar, Ezhilan and Vaidhyanathan are making their electoral debut.
Thousand Lights has been in the limelight as it was represented by DMK president M K Stalin in the 1989, 1996, 2001 and 2006 elections, before the former deputy Chief Minister shifted to the city's Kolathur constituency in 2011 which has elected him twice since then. He is contesting from there this time as well.
In the 2011 election, AIADMK's former state minister B Valarmathi won the seat but lost it in the 2016 election to DMK's K K Selvam who has since joined the saffron party.
The AIADMK had won the seat in the 1980, 1984 and 1991 elections too.
Wondering if this was really the DMK fort as being claimed, Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami, campaigning for Sundar recently, sought to know what Stalin did when he was Chennai Mayor and Municipal Administration Minister or Deputy CM.
'He didn't do anything. No proper roads, no sanitation programme, drainage facility or water storage system. Our government (AIADMK) built the storm water drains in Chennai and improved the infrastructure,' he said.
A total of 2.42 lakh voters will decide the fate of 20 candidates in fray on April 6 with the battle lines clearly drawn between AIADMK-BJP combine and the opposition DMK.
Royapettah, Gopalapuram, Choolaimedu, Chetpet, Nungambakkam, Kodambakkam and parts of T Nagar form the Thousand Lights constituency. PTI JSP SA ROH ROH