Chennai: The electoral battle for Royapuram, an arterial northern part of the city, has become very prestigious for the opposition DMK, which is desperately attempting to wrest back the seat it lost to AIADMK's D Jayakumar way back in 2001.
Elections to 234 Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu will be held on April 6, with counting to be taken up on May 2.
Jayakumar, senior AIADMK leader and state fisheries minister, has bulldozed candidates of DMK and its ally Congress in four consecutive elections, made the constituency an AIADMK bastion and established his virtually undisputed supremacy.
Jayakumar, also the AIADMK organising secretary, scripted his own success in remaining as the MLA of Royapuram Assembly constituency for a quarter of a century, inflicting humiliating defeats on successive DMK and Congress candidates who challenged him.
"DJ Annan," (elder brother) as he is affectionately called by his supporters in his constituency, had lost only during the 1996 assembly election to DMK's R Mathivanan, when a strong anti-incumbency swept away the then ruling AIADMK in the hustings.
He registered his first impressive win in the 1991 election, trouncing Mathivanan and maintained his winning streak in elections in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.
His different campaign styles continue to draw crowds and the ever smiling former Assembly Speaker does not hesitate to wear the white cap similar to that worn by party founder and late chief minister M G Ramachandran, or sing a popular number from "Puratchi Thalaivar's" films, to connect with the people.
Ramachandran is addressed as 'Puratchi Thalaivar,' meaning revolutionary leader.
Jayakumar even sprang a surprise recently by playing kabaddi with the youth on his way home after winding up the day's hectic election campaign.
His unparalleled popularity is something that cannot be underestimated, but rival DMK insists a change is required.
"It is time for change, the time for the Rising Sun (DMK symbol) under the leadership M K Stalin to emerge," has been the constant refrain of the party's 54-year old candidate R Murthy's election campaign.
He is the proprietor of iDream Cinemas and iDream properties.
But Jayakumar, contesting for the seventh time from his home turf, is confident of emerging victorious this time too.
Despite its mixed bag of communities, traffic woes of residents of Royapuram assembly constituency have not ended.
Fishermen, who play a major role in tilting the scales, are apprehensive of the multi-crore developmental programmes in the coastal villages as these threaten their livelihood opportunities.
"DMK's assurance for a sea bridge project connecting Chennai Port-Thiruvottriyur to eliminate traffic congestion and fasten commercial access to and out of the port is not needed. This will only corrode the livelihood opportunities of the fisher folk," says Bharathi Ku, president of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association (SIFWA).
"What we need is livelihood protection initiatives, not multi-crore projects that eat into our villages," he argues.
The fishermen are also opposed to establishing desalination plants in the coastal villages.
"The ever increasing population and floating population of at least 50,000 people on an average per day into Royapuram for trading and other activities makes this constituency prone to frequent traffic snarls,besides taxing existing resources," 60-year old Jayakumar, who hails from the fishing community, told P T I.
Despite being a small area, the density of population is high and streets are narrow in Royapuram. Not less than 3,500 autos make sorties into Royapuram on any given day, Jayakumar, who is also an advocate, claims.
"So this calls for implementing a master plan to meet the increasing requirements of the people. Though the second phase of the Metro rail project will sharply dissuade the dependency on two-wheelers and other vehicles,I will appoint a consultant to transform this constituency into a model one, he said.
Already due to his efforts, problems of water stagnation and power cuts have been resolved and slum clusters replaced with multi-storied apartments to accommodate the poor, he said, adding that improving the amenities in Mint is next in the agenda.
Murthy, on the other hand, assures to upgrade the century-old RSRM Maternity Hospital on par with the AIIMS.
"Also, the constituency needs an arts college," he said.
Apart from building a huge library,the DMK candidate said he will establish six community halls with parking facilities, a modern auditorium, a library for each division and a multi-level parking facility in the constituency, if he wins.
"We still face the problems of drinking water and inadequate drainage facility. In certain areas, sewage water mingles with drinking water. This needs to be set right immediately," Murthy told P T I.
A total of 26 candidates, including S Kamali of Naam Tamilar Katchi and S Gunas/ekaran of Makkal Needhi Maiam, are in the fray for the April 6 election.
Royapuram, with an electorate strength of 1,91,206 voters, including 97,673 women, comprises labour-dominated Old Washermenpet, Royapuram with predominant fishermen population and north Indian population in Kondithope.