Madrasi Camp in Delhi

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A Giant Cut Out of Tamil Super Star Jayaram Jayalalithaa


At Delhi’s ‘Madrasi camp’, a Tamil electoral battle is playing out in miniature “Most of our friends and relatives went from here for voting in Tamil Nadu. They were given Rs 500 and a one-way ticket to Chennai.”

by Shabab Khan | New Delhi | May 21, 2016 02:55

Walking through the narrow lanes of Lajpat Nagar’s ‘Madrasi camp’ is like being on home ground for anyone from south India. A constant smile greets you, a greeting here, a nod there. It’s a warm reception despite the sweltering Delhi sun. However, the political mood in the camp is not that crisp. It almost damp. For people from a state that’s so politically active, there aren’t many posters of local political leaders.

Madrasi camp, or the Madrasi Basti, is settled on land owned by the Indian Railways, where as per the Delhi’s government’s J J Clusters list stand about 1,400 households. The area is predominantly occupied by working class and labour class Tamils who moved here some “40 years” back. In the thoroughfare that runs through the settlement you can find the first trace of political affiliations. It’s not Aam Aadmi Party or the BJP, but a banner of AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha atop a small kiosk.

“Around 500 people have gone to vote and bring Amma back to power. She is our only hope in Tamil Nadu. Her schemes to uplift the impoverished made a great deal of change to people’s lives there. The Amma Canteen, water, cement, salt… She hasn’t left any stone unturned to help the poor and even Dalits like me,” says Arun, slowly crushing tobacco leaves in his palms. Arun is a contract worker who has lived here since childhood. He claims the entire settlement will vote for Jayalalithaa if they had been in Tamil Nadu. “We don’t have any political leaning to any national party, at least not anymore.”

BJP is expecting to open an account in Tamil Nadu this time, but the settlement doesn’t think so. “The BJP will never have any role in Tamil Nadu. I have my voting rights from Delhi. We all voted for Kejriwal last year. He, at least, has some agenda in mind. We will never vote for BJP anywhere,” Arun adds.

Some in the settlement feel there will be a close contest in Tamil Nadu. “I know Amma will come this time, but there will be a major cut in her vote share. It will be a close contest with the DMK. Most of our friends and relatives went from here for voting. They were given Rs 500 and a one-way ticket to Chennai,” says S Shekhar who works in the railways. By the way, he is a die-hard fan of former Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK founder MGR.

But some in the camp believe there could be more to this election. “I know Jaya might enjoy a majority, but my choice is Anbumani Ramadoss. All the educated and literate will vote for PMK this time. He is the only educated man who is leading a party in Tamil Nadu. In fact, the coming generation will surely change their voting strategy to bring him to power,” says a kiosk owner Armugam. He admits “only 15 to 20 votes” will go to PMK from this settlement. Even the exit polls say there will be a close contest between the AIADMK and DMK in Tamil Nadu. Despite the excitement, whichever party comes into power nothing much is going to change in Madrasi camp.

“After 40 years we are getting a shauchalay (toilet) for our camp. There is garbage everywhere and there is an increasing mosquito menace here. We just get two tankers of water every day and the drainage system is so bad it leads to puddles everywhere,” says Arun. Toilet being built in the camp after 40 years in the camp.

He stands and puts ground tobacco in his lower lips, folds his lungi to his knees and pats my back.

“Keep visiting the camp brother,” he says as he heads back to deal with his customers.


Author is a Political Analyst

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About Shabab Khan

A Journalist, Philanthropist; Author of 'The Magician', 'Go!', 'Brutal'. Being a passionate writer, I am into Journalism and writing columns, news stories, articles for top media house. Twitter: @khantastix khansworld@rediffmail.com
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