A tussle is on for Central Chennai constituency, the heart of Tamil Nadu's capital, a largely middle class seat.
After two terms as its lawmaker, Dayanidhi Maran lost the DMK stronghold in 2014 when the AIADMK swept the polls. After the washout, the DMK has roped in the Congress, the Left, MDMK, VCK and others this time. Taking credit for multi-national companies setting shop and providing jobs in Chennai, Mr Maran has promised well-paying jobs. The former telecom minister is confident of reclaiming lost ground.
"Between 2004 and 2014 engineering graduates were able to get a starting salary of Rs 30-40,000. But over the last five years of Modi's rule, the starting salary for an engineering graduate is just Rs 8,000. Our first aim would be to bring back employment to our constituency. Many engineers now work as delivery personnel for e-commerce sites like Swiggy and Uber Eats," he told NDTV.
Also vying for the seat is AIADMK ally PMK's Sam Paul, an entrepreneur. He promises jobs and transparency. Facing anti-incumbency and a split in votes due to TTV Dhinakaran's ouster from AIADMK, the ruling party has stitched a rainbow coalition. Former bitter rivals PMK and BJP are allies now. However, Sam Paul claims this wouldn't backfire and bets on Brand Modi.
Clarifying their alliance with the ruling AIADMK, Sam Paul says, "If they are doing anything wrong we are going to question them and not going to put up with nonsense. That's how we look at it. With our ideas and other plans we have if we implement them I think in the next six months to one year at least a lakh and a half to two lakh jobs can be created in Chennai alone."
Also testing the waters against the Dravidian arch rivals is film producer Kameela Nasser from Kamal Haasan's MNM. Her party's slogan: free drinking water to all homes and fifty lakh jobs. She told NDTV that her party has done good homework discussing with experts and that the 50 lakh jobs in five years promise is feasible.
She told NDTV, "Our promises are interlinked. We also want to make Tamil Nadu huts free. So when we start building houses jobs are created. My leader Nammavar is a visionary and that's why I'm here."
While Central Chennai is a prestige battle for all parties, for Dayanidhi Maran it is special. His father, the late Murasoli Maran, had represented this seat thrice. For voters there is choice between established political parties with long history and a start-up party promising change.
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