CAS, pride, environment at stake in Chennai polls | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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CAS, pride, environment at stake in Chennai polls

PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, Chennai
May 08, 2004 03:42 PM IST

The three constituencies in Chennai that go to the polls Monday are the most crucial among the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu.

The three constituencies in Chennai that go to the polls Monday are the most crucial among the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu.

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HT Image

The most carefully watched candidate is the DMK's Dayanidhi Maran, younger son of the late Murasoli Maran and Tamil Nadu's biggest multi-system operator (MSO). He is contesting from Central Chennai.

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The conditional access system (CAS), under which people have to pay for viewing certain television channels, is one of the most contentious issues for residents here.

For more than a year now, they have had to see only free channels, and MSOs therefore are not particularly liked.

Also, it was at about this time last year that the Maran family was mired in a controversy regarding the medical expenses incurred by the government for the then portfolio-less union minister Murasoli Maran.

Newspapers said the expenses on keeping Maran on life support systems in an American hospital had run up to Rs 100 million, while expenses for his treatment in Indian hospitals before that was Rs 20 million. DMK president M Karunanidhi officially announced later that Maran's sons had paid for his treatment.

Maran, suffering from multi-organ failure, died in November 2003 and his 37-year-old son is now attempting to get elected to parliament from the father's seat. He thinks his politics is naturally inherited.

"I have known them all since I was a baby. These uncles have carried me on their shoulders in rallies and processions," he said, referring to some political heavyweights.

Some of "these uncles" he referred to are Karunanidhi and the former chief minister's son MK Stalin.

Opposing Dayanidhi is AIADMK's N Balaganga, who aspired to become Chennai's mayor but lost the election. He is chairman of the slum board and is supposed to look after the city's poor. He is a candidate with powerful connections.

In North Chennai, DMK's C Kuppusamy has won the seat three consecutive terms. A veteran labour leader, he is trying to garner the sympathy of government servants who have been at loggerheads with the state government for a year now.

His opponent is not from the ruling AIADMK but Sukumaran Nambiar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), son of a well-known actor. The BJP and the AIADMK are allies in Tamil Nadu.

In South Chennai, the war is more than just for prestige. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's schoolmate and city lawyer Bader Sayeed is pitted against a man the state government has certainly learnt to hate, DMK's TR Baalu.

Baalu was a Rajya Sabha member 1986-92. Once jailed, the 63-year-old has had three terms in the Lok Sabha, and this is his fourth try.

As union environment minister, in the last two years, he has been instrumental in thwarting many of Jayalalithaa's pet projects. While the chief minister calls them "development projects", Baalu calls them "destruction of ecosystems".

He has approved laws by which all new urban projects over Rs 500 million now need central clearance.

Baalu has stalled a Rs 4 billion state secretariat project Jayalalithaa wants to build.

He has also stopped the Rs 3.83 billion 150 MW Pykara hydroelectric project in which power is to be generated in the heart of 10 acres of prime forest in the Nilgiris and 20 acres of reserve forest in Coimbatore district.

He has also put a stop to all demolitions on Chennai's beachfronts and construction of new buildings on these prime sites.

If Baalu loses, it will be the first chink in the DMK's bastion, Chennai. If Sayeed wins, victory will be thrice sweet. Jayalalithaa would have broken the DMK's pride, ousted Baalu and got a minority community woman into parliament.

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

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