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Durga joined the BJP as a primary member just two years ago and she is already the party candidate for Ward 124 in Mylapore for the Chennai Corporation council. A qualified mechanical engineer, Durga represents middle class professionals who identify with the party. As a woman, she also brings forward the trend in local body elections where the husband is also, if not more, politically active.

In an attempt to ride on its nationwide success, the BJP has been determined to expand its base in Tamil Nadu beyond what the RSS and its allied organizations offer. It has sought to draw more people as members, volunteers and local leaders.

Many have come from other parties to the BJP. A few are novices who have been attracted to the party’s ideology. Known as a party that could appeal more to urban folk, the BJP has decided to contest the local body elections on its own to test its support among voters.

Ward 124 is dotted with at least 10 large and well known temples – seven dedicated to Shiva and three to Vishnu

At Ward 124, brisk polling was seen early in the day but those lining up dwindled as the day wore on. The rather poor turnout recorded can be attributed in-part due to the lack of a Mayoral candidate.

Ward 124 is dotted with at least 10 large and well known temples – seven dedicated to Shiva and three to Vishnu: Karaneeswarar Theerthapaleeswarar, Velleeswarar, Virupaksheeswarar, Valeeswarar, Malleeswarar and the most famous of them, Kapaleeswarar; Srinivasa Perumal, Adikesava Perumal and Madhava Perumal. There are famous Amman temples too.

While caste-based numbers are not available, a majority of the voters at this ward are likely brahmins. For the Hindutva party, the BJP, Mylapore Ward 124 should therefore offer better chances than many other wards in Chennai.

“During the campaign when I started meeting people, my interest in and grasp of politics also increased,” says Durga, Ward 124 BJP candidate

Durga’s vote was in Alwarpet. After casting her vote there, she was at the polling booth at a school near Mundaga Kanni Amman temple checking how many votes had been cast.

It was 4:30pm and only half hour was left before close of polling. A few were hurrying in so that they were not too late to cast their vote.

Durga was noting down the votes cast, accompanied by two party workers, a woman lawyer, and her doctor daughter. The lawyer was there to offer legal advice if required, apparently.

Durga’s husband, Kuppuswamy, was on poll duty elsewhere. Just as Durga was inside the booth, an elderly brahmin woman was walking out after casting her vote. She was telling a younger woman accompanying her that it was time for the lotus to bloom. Two hijab-clad women were among a few others waiting to cast their vote at the booth.

Durga did not sport the party colour of saffron or other typical emblems of the BJP. While elsewhere, BJP party workers identify themselves with bright strands of sacred ash on their forehead, here in Chennai that was missing on the foreheads of party workers accompanying Durga.

Durga said she had little interest in politics for much of her life. Her husband joined the BJP in 2017 and has been an active party worker. He serves as the Mandaveli zone head of the party. She helped her husband organize food and other relief during the lockdown but was not a part of the party until recently. Her husband was more active, she says.

Ward124 was allocated for women when elections were announced. And Durga was asked to contest.

Durga has promised voters that she will take efforts to ensure water stagnation doesn’t happen in Mylapore by clearing canals. She will set up a free tuition center for children and take steps to refurbish temples. “During the campaign when I started meeting people, my interest in and grasp of politics also increased,” she says.

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