In the scorching sun, Sumathi alias Thamizhachi Thangapandian is busy campaigning for her party’s victory in the congested streets of Chennai for the upcoming Lok Sabha Election. On most occasions, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) South Chennai candidate is seen standing on an open van waving to the crowd with a warm smile on her face.
In the popular culture of Tamil Nadu, a candidate’s mileage increases when women gather around and offer aarati, break pumpkins, shower flowers, etc. Thamizhachi is a recipient of such favours. “I have an emotional connection with our voters. They greet me with flowers, offer bangles and other handmade jewellery. I’m just blown away by their warmth and affection,“ says Thamizhachi.
This Lok Sabha Elections will mark her electoral debut. But she isn’t a novice to politics; her family members have held important posts in the DMK. Born in Mallankinaru village in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu, Thamizhachi is an academic, a litterateur, a theatre artist and also a lyricist. She is the daughter of late DMK minister V. Thangapandian, and sister of former DMK minister Thangam Thennarasu.
Though the family background might act as a confidence booster for her ahead of elections, it has paved the way for other political parties to take a dig at DMK’s family politics. Out of DMK’s 20 candidates contesting in the upcoming parliamentary election, six of them are children of party leaders. Out of those, only two seats have been allotted to women and they are shared by DMK President MK Stalin’s sister MK Kanimozhi and Thamizhachi.
When asked about her opponents claim that she was given an edge over other party members because of her family background, she says the criticism is too clichéd. “I have resigned from my professional job in 2007. Since then I have been part of DMK’s art wing and contributed to its growth in some way. I have campaigned for the party all these years, so I’m not new to politics. I have been offered the seat because of my contribution to the party all these years. So there is no question of hierarchy/family dynasty, I got it on my own merit.“
Tamizhachi also disagrees with Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy’s remark that Stalin became the leader of DMK just because he is Kalaignar’s son. “Our Party President waited for 45 years to become the leader of DMK. Throughout the world, there are only two persons who hail from a political family has waited for so long to become the party chief. One is Raul Castro who waited for 49 years and another one is our beloved leader, Stalin,” she says.
South Chennai – A prestigious constituency
The South Chennai Lok Sabha constituency comprises six areas like Mylapore, Saidapet, Virugambakkam, Sholinganallur, T.Nagar, and Velachery. In the 2014 elections, DMK fielded T.K.S Elangovan, who lost to AIADMK’s J.Jayavardhan by more than one lakh votes. This time, the multifaceted Thamizhachi will hope to represent the same constituency, which was earlier represented by senior political leaders like former President R. Venkatraman, Former Tamil Nadu chief minister CN Annadurai, former finance Minister TT Krishnamachari, and former MP Murasoli Maran.
The major issues in these areas are water scarcity, poor sewerage network, and traffic congestion. Thamizhachi promises that the issues would be resolved and she would demand for more central funds for the constituency.
She says a flyover would be built in areas like Sholinganallur to curb the traffic congestion, pending projects like the metro rail project between Thiruvanmiyur – Mamallapuram, and Velachery – St.Thomas Mount would be completed soon. She also aims for the restoration of Pallikaranai marshland and Perungudi dump yard. “The ruling party says they have allocated more than 1200 crores to renovate the Pallikaranai marshland and Perungudi dump yard, but I haven’t seen a single development in that area in all these years. Perungudi marshland is one of the greatest resources we have. If we maintain it properly, it will provide a proper eco-balance. If we come to power, we will tie-up with several NGO’s and seek expert advice from European and other Western Countries to make this resource useful. We can also convert this into a sanctuary,” she added.
In a list of 40 candidates contesting in South Chennai constituency, 28 are Independent candidates. The major players in this parliamentary constituency are J.Jayavardhan of AIADMK, Thamizhachi Thangapandian of DMK and R.Rangarajan, a former civil servant of Makkal Needhi Maiam. When asked about her victory chances in the elections, Thamizhachi says: “I will definitely win with a sweeping majority. The people are looking for a change. Wherever I go, I can see positive energy, they genuinely want me to win this election and I believe them.”
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