With Muslims in one hand and working class on other SDPI eyes North Chennai

By Mohd Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net,

Chennai: In the narrow by lanes of Thiruvika Nagar with dominant slum population a fierce corporate bashing speech is creating ripples which can be sense from streets across, although the clamour created was inversely proportionate to the number of attendees.

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From a petite stage of Social Democratic Party of India election program its speaker is knocking down economic liberation policy, FDI, Ambanis which he claim represent the face of crony capitalism of Government the main reason he said for the poor conditions of working class of North Chennai parliamentary constituency.

With Muslims in one hand and working class on other SDPI eyes North Chennai

Not very far from the South India’s first railway station at Royapuram, in Washermenpet the calls of Muslim unity echoes. From this well attended meeting in Muslim locality of Lala Kunda SDPI’s North Chennai candidate M. Nizam Mohiuddin criticize Vijaykanth, one of the allies in Narendra Modi’s rainbow alliance in Tamil Nadu.

In a well scripted Muslim conscious speech SDPI candidate brought public on its toes. In his ferocious Tamil speech he lashes out on Modi getting applause from crowd. While public meeting was about to be ended, keeping in mind the huge concentration of Urdu speaking Muslims in the locality the convener told the crowd before taking a leave, “Modi teri Mayyat yahin se uthayange” (Modi your funeral will be lifted from here) which breaks into sloganeering praising SDPI. Heavy police force was deployed as the area witnessed clashes between SDPI and VHP activists just three months before on the dispute of flexing VHP banner near a mosque.

The above two observed meetings though present a stark contrast but there is well crafted election engineering behind.

With a fishing harbour, a port and industries North Chennai has been the epicenter of labor union activism. Nearly one lakh fishermen still operate from Kasimedu harbor, forming 8% of the electorate. The other major working class, Chennai’s labour force which resides at Perambur, Thiruvottiyur and Kolathur forms 80% of the electorate in the constituency.

Privatization of ports and public sector undertakings which are taking a toll upon fishermen and labours are the hot political issues in this constituency and SDPI is ready to take a socialist tune to grab some disenchanted voters.

In spite of new found love with working class, party has not forgotten its core vote base the Muslim community. And the rise of Narendra Modi at national stage left the party with huge polarization of community votes to bank on.

North Chennai parliamentary seat has been a citadel of DMK since decades, but in 2011 assembly elections party lost all the segments except Kolathur won by none other than party second in command MK Stalin.

With Muslims in one hand and working class on other SDPI eyes North Chennai

Sitting DMK MP TKS Elagovan has been shifted to South Chennai and ticket is allotted to Stalin’s loyalist R. Girijan. AIADMK which won maximum segments in assembly elections fielded a new face T.G. Ventakesh Babu.

Last election runner up the Left Front who lost the seat with just 19,000 votes has fielded CPIM women wing leader U. Vasuki. NDA ally Vijaykanth’s DMDK has fielded party’s trade union secretary M Soundara Pandian who is basing his campaign on ‘Modi the development man’.

Although this constituency doesn’t have any significant Muslim population as in case of Central Chennai, SDPI has a good organizational structure and a committed cadre. Many political pundits will sideline the party as non-contender but its leadership has decided not to leave a stone unturned while setting up a good publicity apparatus.

Posters and banners in each every passing lanes and election offices covering downtrodden localities including some Christian neighborhoods gave a good visibility for its candidate. In one of its election office, an under construction house, located in a Muslim ghetto SDPI candidate Nizam Mohiuddin sits with group of young volunteers to chalk down poll plans.

With photos of Ambedkar, Periyar and Quaid-e-Millat Mohamed Ismail in backside banner Mr. Mohiuddin told TCN that he is not fighting this election as an underdog, “Our party has a good organizational structure in this constituency since 2009. SDPI is not here just for these elections; we have been fighting, agitating on local issues on many occasions. We have also raised many core Tamil issues to strike a chord with the masses.”

Nizam Mohiuddin is currently state general secretary of the party. Originally from Tirunelveli he uses to teach at a primary school before joining Popular Front of India as its national general secretary.

Coming from deep southern part of state, Mr. Mohiuddin can’t understand any other language but Tamil. Currently looking forward for Muslim votes in the constituency predominantly of Urdu speakers will not be a challenge he claim. “There is no language barrier or differences in Muslim community on this basis. Muslims here are politically mature they will not indulge in language fights to weaken the community further.”

With Muslims in one hand and working class on other SDPI eyes North Chennai

In the same breath he continued, “I want to clarify something. We are not fighting for just Muslim votes. We are not a Muslim party. I want to be a voice of all oppressed sections. We are promising masses here a better roads, education, hygiene not narrow ideas of caste creed or religion.”

“If get elected yes I will be concentrating on Muslim community issues. But as a public representative I will be looking after the grievances of all the communities.”

On the question of aggressive posturing by SDPI Mr. Mohiuddin shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s a part of Tamil politics.”