Tamil Nadu Minister for Tamil Official Language and Culture Ma Foi Pandiarajan, who is seeking reelection from the Avadi Assembly constituency, has a tight schedule for a Sunday. Beginning his campaign at 7.15 am he visits five churches in the constituency before switching gears to an alliance party meeting, and the usual roadshow campaign. During his campaign, he reminds voters of the promises he has fulfilled and those that are in the pipeline.
The Avadi Assembly constituency, which falls under the Thiruvallur Parliamentary segment, has a significant Christian and Muslim population. Pandiarajan dismisses concerns that the AIADMKâ€™s ally â€“ the BJP â€“ could prove a liability in the constituency as far as minority votes go, choosing to focus on his achievements. â€śI have done a lot for Avadi,â€ť he tells TNM. He cites the upcoming IT park in Pattabiram, the restoration of the Paruthipattu lake into an eco-park, development of 33 new parks at a cost of Rs 17.27 crore as among his accomplishments over the course of five years. Pandiarajan adds he has done a lot for the constituency in terms of roads and drinking water. â€śI have moved on the path of developing Avadi into a green Avadi,â€ť he says.
However, several residents who TNM spoke to say that while the minister has brought in a lot for the constituency, Avadi is in desperate need of basic infrastructures like roads and the underground drainage system.
â€śThe issues in this constituency are what plague the rest of Tamil Nadu. If they put a road, it should last for five years. If itâ€™s a cement road, it should last for ten years. No road lasts for even one year here. They haven't put a road in many places,â€ť says Sampath, an advocate and resident of Avadi.
His words are echoed by other residents. Kumar Das, and Saravana Kumar, residents of Kannigapuram, point to issues like bad roads and drinking water.
â€śThere is so much dust because the roads are in such poor condition. If it rains, the water stagnates for at least an hour. There is no drinking water, we are buying one pot for Rs 8-10. The minister has come, but because itâ€™s election he has come,â€ť alleges Kumar Das, a retired government employee. Saravana Kumar adds, â€śOnly during election time, they go to one house after another and ask for our votes. They came during the Lok Sabha Election. We said to put a road, they said we will definitely put a road. Now Nassar (of the DMK) and Ma Foi are coming and asking for votes. And they all say the same thing.â€ť
Sampath points to the underground drainage project which has been in the pipeline for over a decade. â€śThey said it would be completed in three years, But itâ€™s been 12 years and itâ€™s still not executed.â€ť
Vijaykumar, a driver, says, â€śThe sewage water flows into my house if it rains.â€ť
Kannan, who sells fish, points to infrastructure projects like the Annanur railway overbridge that is yet to be completed. Ma Foi Pandiarajan, however, says five pending bridges will be open within 100 days if he is elected once again. â€śSA Engineering College bridge is ready for inauguration. Itâ€™s just that EC notification happened. The Annanur bridge has been there for a long time, the alignment got realigned almost three times. We have been at it. Land acquisition issues have troubled the places. The five bridges - almost all are ready to be inaugurated - so I believe within the next 100 days these five bridges will be open,â€ť he promises.
The Avadi Assembly constituency was formed post delimitation. The seat has been with the AIADMK since 2011. However, Ma Foi Pandiarajan managed to defeat his DMK rival SM Nasar by only a slim margin of 1395 votes in 2016. In the upcoming election, Pandiarajan will be up against Nasar of the DMK once again, while DMDKâ€™s NM Shankar (part of the AMMK alliance), MNMâ€™s Udayakumar and NTKâ€™s Vijayalakshmi are also in the fray.
Watch: Ma Foi Pandiarajan in conversation with TNM