With a red and black shawl over her shoulders and a warm smile, Thamizhachi Thangapandian walks the streets of Medavakkam on Tuesday, April 2 2019. She initiates a friendly conversation with the women, tastes the Kara Kuzhambu in one of the houses and listens attentively to their problems. She assures that she will transform the locality if elected to power.
A writer, poet and academician, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) camdidate Thamizhachi Thangapandian is fighting her first Lok Sabha election from Chennai South. She is campaigning vigorously — both online and offline; her Facebook page is filled with updates about her campaigns, crucial issues in Chennai South and a roadmap to resolve them.
We caught up with her for a chat in the midst of a busy day reserved for campaigning. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
How has your campaigning been so far?
Chennai South is a prestigious constituency, contested and won in the past by leaders such as C N Annadurai and Murasoli Maran. It is a dynamic constituency with an active citizen participation. I am delighted that citizens have welcomed me with so much warmth. Their love and trust has only increased my sense of duty towards them. Campaigning in Chennai South has been a marvelous journey as it has helped me understand the underlying problems in the localities.
So do you feel you will be able to solve these problems for them?
MLAs from the assembly constituencies of Chennai South are also campaigning with me. A majority of civic problems are hyperlocal, and those can be solved by the local bodies. Our MLAs have promised to solve issues such as the pending underground drainage project in Nochi Nagar. As an MP candidate, I will work on bringing in important civic and infrastructural facilities to Chennai South.
What are the primary issues that have been brought to your notice?
There is a need for Anganwadi centres in Palavakkam Kuppam. In localities such as Nochikuppam and Nochi Nagar, the underground sewage project is stalled over minor hassles in land acquisition. Having suffered the brunt of GST, small businesses are vanishing in Kodambakkam. Traffic congestion is a never ending problem on OMR.
If you come to power, which of these issues do you plan on taking up?
Promises by the sitting MP, J Jayavardhan, such as construction of a trauma centre in Sholinganallur, vanished into thin air over his tenure. Besides completing the unfulfilled promises, I want to be a strong voice for the needs of women in the constituency. I will set up bio-sanitary vending machines in public places.
Fast completion of the Metro line between Thiruvanmiyur and Siruseri and setting up of biodigesters that convert waste to energy are also on my priority list.
The overall plan for the constituency is simple and balanced: to maintain the infrastructure present in developed localities and focus on growth in the underdeveloped localities.
Among the most critical issues in South Chennai is the pollution and encroachment in Pallikaranai marshland. What is your action plan for the marsh?
Pallikaranai marshland is an asset to Chennai. I promise to support the restoration of the marsh in whatever way I can. It could be voicing the problem in the Lok Sabha (if elected), to bring in funds for its restoration or co-ordinating with MLAs and officials from the concerned departments to ensure change.
You say DMK stands up for women’s rights. But how do you defend the fact that only two women from DMK are contesting in the polls?
When you stitch an alliance, there are so many factors to consider. Candidates are selected based on their performance and hardship, not gender. Selecting candidates for polls depends on all parties in the alliance. But, when it comes to the party, DMK has three women district secretaries in Tamil Nadu.
What is the central focus of the DMK in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls?
We aim to remove the terrible and corrupt AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu and to undo the fascist Narendra Modi government at the centre. DMK is people-centric. Ours is an all inclusive manifesto, that represents people from all strata and sections — women, farmers, youth, children and the like. Improving the economic situation of India and making Tamil the co-official language are among the priorities.
How is DMK aiming to improve the economic situation?
A lot of prominent brands had set up industries in Tamil Nadu during the DMK regime, increasing employment opportunities for the youth. DMK will also ensure an acceptable GST rate to facilitate flourishing of small and medium businesses.
What do you think of the sitting MP J Jayavardhan’s performance?
People across the constituency are unhappy with his performance. They are agitated that the sitting MP has not visited them before the polls. Citizens of the Nanmangalam village, which he adopted, are disappointed about the infrastructural deficiencies. Jayavardhan claims that the village he adopted under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana is developed. But you won’t find something as basic as a proper road without potholes in the village.
Why should citizens vote for you?
I am accessible. Being a writer, I associate with people and their grievances closely. I am an academician, who wants to do the best for the education sector. Being a woman, I can connect to a multitude of problems faced by the downtrodden women in the constituency.
A strong voice is needed for ALL people, not just for women..