May 02, 2009

Elections in Chennai

Mumbai mourns for the victims of 26/11. It starts talking against terrorism. Its people come together for candlelight processions. They begin to call for change.
Its celebrities lend time and talent for the campaigns for General Elections 2009. TV channels devote hours of airtime on what Mumbai is thinking on election eve.
Loads of programmes to discuss if 26/11 will impact on the elections.
Heated debates on the role of the middle class and the youth in the polls.
Finally, on April 30, the day Mumbai went to the polls, just over 40% cast their ballot.
So what do we make of all this? Think it over. . .
I am interested in Chennai. It goes to the polls on May 13.
And there are three metro-based constituencies - Chennai North, Chennai Central and Chennai South. All three are sprawling constituencies, with anywhere between nine to ten lakh voters in each.
Each has its own set of issues, demands, expectations and disappointments.
Each constituency has its own character, colour and composition. Though all three make Chennai what it is.
So are there Chennai-driven issues that are dominating the elections this time around?
And is it important to put these issues on top of the agenda of the candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring last fortnight?
The campaign so far has been low-profile, dull and drab. But you cannot blame the sun for this.
From the little that I have gleaned from the campaigns, the men and women in the fray are saying the same things we have heard at election time. Very little is arresting and imaginative.
Do parliamentarians also represent a city? If they do, why aren't we witnessing debates at public forums on issues that affect Chennai?
Promising drinking waterlines to a slum or nodding for another flyover to tackle the growing traffic is welcome but are there 'Chennai' issues which are topping the agenda?
Perhaps this has not happened because Chennai's community prefers to complain and endure or because it knows not what its role should be in the public sphere?
So what will be the voting percentage in Chennai? Better than Mumbai?
There is a lot behind that figure which will be known after dusk on May 13.

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