Despite celebrations for Ram Mandir, no blank cheque for BJP in Chennai's Sowcarpet

Sowcarpet in Central Chennai celebrated the inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, but the voters, predominantly north Indians from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, seem split between the DMK and the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha 2024 polls.
Ayodhya Ram temple inauguration celebration in Chennai's Sowcarpet
Ayodhya Ram temple inauguration celebration in Chennai's Sowcarpet
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Sowcarpet, located a few kilometres from Chennai’s Puratchi Thalaivar Dr MG Ramachandran Central Railway Station, has had an influx of north Indian population over more than four decades ago. With a majority having migrated from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the residents took to the streets and celebrated the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2024. But a significant number of people in the locality, which falls under the Chennai Central constituency, may not extend their support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming polls.

Om Prakash, a resident and a businessman who owns an automobile repair shop, told TNM, “Yes, we celebrated the temple’s inauguration but that doesn’t mean that we will all vote for the BJP. We don’t vote based on religion, at least not all the north Indians from Sowcarpet. A good number of business owners here in Sowcarpet, including me, support the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).” According to Om Prakash, the support for the DMK is primarily because of the good work that the party has done in the locality, in terms of constructing storm water drains, maintaining the roads as well as its welfare schemes among others. 

However, he added that when compared to 2019, more north Indians seem to want to support the BJP. “There might be many reasons but the recent event that shaped their thoughts is definitely the Ayodhya temple,” he said.

Other residents believe that the support for the DMK is because the ward councillor, Rajesh Jain, belongs to that party and belongs to the majority Marwari community. Rajesh hails from Rajasthan. Lalitha, a resident, said, “The councillor used to be in the BJP and he then shifted to the DMK. He is also a businessman. He owns a shop called Rangeela in Sowcarpet. So, inevitably, the business people here are being forced to support the DMK because if not, they might become a minority and might not get any favours from the local administration.” 

She also said that many residents opt to vote for the DMK because they get freebies from the councillor. “I am not like that. I will vote for the BJP. PM Modi has made the Ram temple and that is a long fight that people have been fighting for. While 50% people here in Sowcarpet will favour the DMK because of the reasons I stated, the other 50% will vote for the BJP in an attempt to bring back Modi,” she ascertained.

Swarn Kumari, another resident, also expressed similar sentiments. “We wish that Tamil Nadu will also elect the BJP to power. They will do the right thing unlike these regional parties. The DMK doesn’t favour us but the problem is there are some Tamil people in Sowcarpet also who will not vote for the BJP. The neighbouring area is Mannadi and is predominantly occupied by Muslims. So, their support will be for the Congress or for the DMK only,” Swarn said. 

TNM also spoke to Tamil residents who are opposed to the BJP. A majority of them pointed out the price rise in cooking gas cylinders and fuel in the 10 years that the BJP has been in power. A cycle rickshaw driver, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “A temple is not going to save us. Ramar (Ram) won’t save us from price rise. We will support the opposition even though we know they might not win. At least they can sit in the Parliament and question the Modi government on poor people’s behalf.”

DMK’s sitting Member of Parliament (MP) from Chennai Central Dhayanidhi Maran is once again fighting for the same seat. Other prominent candidates include Vinoj P Selvam of the BJP, Parthasarathy from Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), and Karthikeyan from Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK). 

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