Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) stands out as the only party in the state to have offered a 50% quota for women in the upcoming state assembly elections. Contesting on a NTK ticket from the constituency of Egmore, P Geetha Lakshmi is campaigning vigorously in the constituency, to understand the predominant concerns of the electorate and their demands. A physiotherapist by profession and state-in-charge, medical wing of the party, P Geetha Lakshmi is contesting for the first time.
We caught up with her to learn more about her, the ideologies of Naam Tamilar Katchi and her plans for the constituency.
What is your understanding of Egmore constituency?
Egmore is a land of contrasts. It houses the richest citizens of Chennai and also the marginalised, who live in 4*4 square feet of land. Civic issues galore bother Jagannadhapuram, Thideer Nagar, Periamet and Pudupet. The constituency, which also has several government offices, has not seen uniform development. Smart city projects in Chennai focussed on already developed localities such as T Nagar, but not on places like Egmore where the slum dwellers live without toilets.
How has your experience on the campaign trial been?
Meeting people is always an enriching experience. Citizens are fed up with the Dravidian majors and are willing to see a change in governance. Citizens are beginning to appreciate our party for its ideologies; they believe that we can bring a change. The party has been growing phenomenally in every election and we have made a mark in the political ground of Tamil Nadu.
How do you assess the performance of the sitting MLA Ravichandran?
Very poor. He failed to implement people-friendly schemes in the constituency. Even during a crisis time such as the pandemic, he did not reach out to people.
Do you think the state government’s interventions during the pandemic were effective enough?
The state government took all the right steps. But they should have implemented the lockdown much earlier (in January last year), to curtail the wide spread of the pandemic.
What are the key issues in your constituency?
Roads and flyovers laid in the British era are still in decent condition. However, many roads constructed in the past ten years have potholes already. This reflects the corruption that exists in the road-laying business.
Basic amenities are absent here.The slum dwellers of Purasawalkam, Periamet and Sharma Nagar were evicted with the promise of decent homes at the same localities. It has not been fulfilled yet. For all those who were shifted to the housing board settlements in Chemmenchery, it is an ordeal to come back to the city for work. Children of these homes have to commute more than 20 kilometres to attend school. Many have lost their jobs in the process.
The localities of Thideer Nagar and Otteri have a lot of homeless people. At Pudupet, drug usage among youngsters has been a persistent issue. Water scarcity is still a major problem for the slum dwellers of Chetpet.
What is your wish list for the constituency?
As a legislator, I will focus on understanding the fibre of all wards and devise solutions accordingly. Setting up CCTV cameras in public spaces, constructing night schools and a public library in each ward are among the top priorities. I will close 15 liquor shops present at the stretch near Elephant Gate bridge. As we understand the health implications of alcohol abuse, we will promote organic liquor made from palm and coconut.
If elected, I will team up with planners to formulate a solution for traffic congestion which is primarily due to haphazard parking of vehicles.
Adding a new track to Egmore Railway station is a long-pending demand. People who take the suburban train from Tambaram or Kancheepuram to reach Chennai Central have to walk more than a kilometre from Park railway station. An additional track at Egmore station would solve the issue but the proposal has been pending for 15 years.
Being a woman politician, what challenges do you face?
It is a tough job to be a woman in a society that sees you as incapable. It is a known fact that women politicians are not respected. It is fascinating that there is a political party like Naam Tamilar Katchi that recognises the strength of women and gives us 50 per cent quota. Our party coordinator, Senthamizhan Seeman believes that there won’t be any development in electoral policies without women’s participation. We strive to bring in an equal number of female legislators in the assembly.
Why do you think citizens should vote for you?
I am very determined, and a person who walks the talk. People are used to listening to many electoral promises that never saw the light of day. I promise real, substantial development.