In his constituency, Stalin seeks win with bigger margin
People carrying flags lined narrow lanes in Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader MK Stalin’s Kolathur constituency in Chennai an hour before his arrival on Thursday even as the mercury soared above 40 degrees Celsius. The constituency wore a festive look with DMK’s flags, mini-stages, balloons, and tiny ubiquitous banners bearing Stalin, his father, M Karunanidhi, and son Udhaynidhi’s images.
Around 5pm, a child ran saying he is coming. As people rushed to greet him, Stalin got onto an open vehicle that took him around. A troupe of drummers led the way. Crackers were burst and the election theme song blared in the background: “Stalin is coming, he is going to usher in a new dawn- that is the people’s mandate”.
“Politicians are known to be greedy for power, but he [Stalin] has waited for so long. He is 68. Patience is a good leadership quality. I want him to be our next chief minister,” said businessman Suresh Kumar. “When Stalin was the mayor, we [the people of Chennai] saw flyovers for the first time. I believe he will bring in such firsts as chief minister,” he added as Stalin moved to his next stop in GKM Colony.
Stalin is contesting from Kolathur for the third time since it was carved out in 2011. “I am the one who comes to you immediately in case of storm or rains or any other damage,” Stain, the DMK’s chief ministerial candidate, told a gathering. “I have come here twice a week. Now, I have to travel around Tamil Nadu so I cannot come often. You have understood that too. Just like you taught the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] a lesson in the  parliamentary elections, you must teach them a lesson in this assembly election as well.”
Tamil Nadu goes to the polls on April 6. DMK is hoping to wrest power from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a BJP ally that has been in power for 10 years, after sweeping the 2019 national polls by winning 37 out of 38 seats in the state.
Stalin has vowed to make Kolathur a model constituency if he is voted to power as the chief minister. A predominantly middle and lower-middle-class area, Kolathur also has a sizeable Muslim population.
A few AIADMK flags could be seen but its campaign is nowhere as boisterous as DMK’s. In Stalin’s absence, his aide Sekar Babu has ensured that he represents the DMK chief at weddings and other social events.
Stalin also draws support from the labour unions of the two Left parties and Muslim parties in the DMK-led alliance. A dedicated team besides political strategist Prashant Kishor’sI-PAC has been working in the constituency since 2014 to address the residents’ grievances.
Kolathur and Chennai have been DMK’s strongholds. Residents said the margin of Stalin’s victory will be keenly watched. The DMK’s target is to ensure Stalin’s victory by at least 10,00,00 votes.
Stalin earlier represented the Thousand Lights constituency. Stalin defeated AIADMK’s Adhi Rajaram in the 2006 elections by just 2,468 votes. “This time I will defeat him by more than 40,000 votes,” said Rajaram.
A shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named, said the AIADMK has the BJP’s support, and they will win another term. “So, if Rajaram is elected, he will be able to perform better. We are still waiting for a bridge over a level crossing to be completed,” he said, pointing to the railway station nearby where the construction work is incomplete.
Rajaram said despite being a lawmaker, Stalin has not taken care of basic amenities like drinking water, hanging high-tension wires, and open manholes.
Shahin Nisha, a resident, said she prays for Stalin to be the chief minister. “We have always supported the DMK and this time we want him to become the chief minister somehow,” said Nisha. “We feel protected under him.”
Nisha’s family has been urging their relatives to support the DMK as well.
Stalin’s wife, Durga, has been campaigning for her husband. She does not address meetings but with folded hands interacts with voters personally.
After student S Anitha died by suicide as she was unable to clear the all-India pre-medical National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Stalin started Anitha Achievers Academy in Kolathur. The academy offers free coaching to students. “When my granddaughter grows up and she wants to study medicine, we want a leader like Stalin who will oppose NEET since we are poor and cannot compete at such a high level,” said B Yashoda, a resident.
DMK has promised to abolish NEET in its manifesto.
An AIADMK voter, K Muthukumar, said he is switching his allegiance to Stalin. “[Late former chief minister] Jayalalithaa was a good administrator but after she died, there is no one in the AIADMK to question the Centre,” said Muthukumar. “I do not believe the BJP. They may even change the name of Tamil Nadu. Our rights are under a threat.”