rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » The candidate with 1,000 cars

The candidate with 1,000 cars

April 20, 2014 16:20 IST

The candidate with 1,000 cars

     Next

Next
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com in Theni, Tamil Nadu

'He takes kumkum from one old lady's plate and puts it on his forehead.'

'He then puts his hand in his pocket. The hand comes out, the fist closed. The woman opens her palm. He covers her palm with his fist. The woman closes her palm.'

'There are policemen, also a videographer from the Election Commission. There is a huge crowd all around. No one sees anything, and if someone does, no one bats an eyelid.'

It has been 47 years that the Congress was pushed out of power in Tamil Nadu. After the DMK split with the Congress last year, most people are quick to dismiss the prospects of the Grand Old Party in the state.

Still, there are some Congress candidates who are not disheartened, and fighting the lonely battle with gusto, enthusiasm and a lot of money, discovers Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar who accompanied one such candidate on the campaign trail.

J M Aaroon Rashid, the Congress candidate from Theni in southern Tamil Nadu, grabbed his 15 minutes of fame when a video of him going to file his nomination with about 500 cars in his cavalcade went viral on the Internet.

"There were actually 1,000 cars," Rashid tells Rediff.com, "I have been twice an MP from here. People who love and support me followed me in their cars."

Another report said Rashid had distributed tokens which could be redeemed later for Rs 300.

"It is an AIADMK (All India Dravida Munetra Kazhagam conspiracy," says Rashid. "They are distributing money and blaming me for it. I have never taken a bribe from anybody. Ask anybody in my constituency if I have taken money from them. Instead, I do them favours all the time."

Sir, I asked if you are distributing money, not accepting it?

"I never distribute money. The people love me, they vote for me," says Rashid.

You have won twice when your party was in alliance with the DMK. What are your prospects this time without the DMK?

"I will do much better this time. You just wait and watch!" exclaims Rashid.

Please click NEXT to read further...


Image: J M Haroon Rashid, the Congress candidate from Theni district, southern Tamil Nadu is greeted by supporters.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

     Next

The candidate with 1,000 cars

Prev     Next
Prev

Next
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Rashid distributes two books that total around 700 pages. He tells voters that these are compilations of all the questions he asked in Parliament in the last 10 years. He also claims he brought in 14 cell phone towers in the area.

His party workers distribute 2D cards. You see Rashid's picture at one angle; when you tilt the card you see the Congress's election symbol. The other side of the card lists Rasheed's achievements in the past 10 years.

He assures the gathering that all the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act) workers will get the money for their work at their doorstep.

"First, it (the money) used to come through the panchayat president. Now, it comes to your bank. If I am elected, it will come to your doorstep," he says, promising to increase the 100 days work limit to 150 days a year.

Women complain that they get only three days of work per week and are paid Rs 50 instead of Rs 100.

"You will have to ask the local leaders, but I will look into it," he assures them. Then he adds, "Remember, if you vote for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), they will stop MNREGA."

Interestingly, the same tactic -- that the BJP might end MNREGA -- is deployed by Congress leaders ranging from the party's candidate H Vasanthakumar in Kanyakumari to sitting MP P Chidambaram in Sivaganga and the Congress nominee Mani Shankar Aiyar in Mayiladuthurai.

Please click NEXT to read further...


Image: Candidate Rashid looks on as one of his supporters speaks.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

The candidate with 1,000 cars

Prev     Next
Prev

Next
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Rashid's biggest failure, a journalist tells me, was with the Indian Railways.

A meter gauge train operated from Madurai to Bodi, a distance of 90 kilometres. The meter gauge tracks were uprooted a decade ago, with the promise of laying broad gauge tracks.

It never happened. The journalist alleges that some bus owners bribed the powers-that-be of that time, and stopped the introduction of broad gauge trains.

In another village, a group of women wait to perform aarti for the MP. Rashid waves them away, but allows one old lady to do the aarti. He takes kumkum (vermillion powder) from her plate and puts it on his forehead.

He then puts his hand in his pocket. The hand comes out, the fist closed.

The woman opens her palm. He covers her palm with his fist. The woman closes her palm.

She does not open her palm until she is indoors. Then she smiles, her smile reaching her eyes.

There are policemen, also a videographer from the Election Commission. There is a huge crowd all around. No one sees anything, and if someone does, no one bats an eyelid.

Party workers tell the other women not to be disheartened, and promise to return the next day minus the candidate. The women look pleased.

Please click NEXT to read further...


Image: Women wait to perform aarti for Rashid.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

The candidate with 1,000 cars

Prev     More
Prev

More
A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Every place we stop, there are Ponadais (silk or cotton shawls to honour people) waiting for Rashid. At some places, the MP drapes the Ponadais on local leaders.

Some members of his staff are dressed in dark safari suits, and referred to as 'Black Cats', personnel from the National Security Guard.

How many people in rural Tamil Nadu know that MPs don't get NSG cover?

Rashid believes he will cover the entire constituency in two weeks. In one village he reads out a list of his supporters, which is nearly everyone in the village. He seems to know many people on a first name basis.

Those whose names he can't remember are addressed as Mama; Machan; Mapillai; Thambi (uncle; older brother-in-law; younger brother-in-law; younger brother). He has the gift of the gab and a ready smile.

The journalist assures me that if Rashid wins, voters will see him again only during the next election campaign.

Just as we are about to leave, a reporter hurriedly approaches us. "Sir, would you like two tokens? You can have a good meal in our town before leaving."


Image: Rashid takes kumkum from the old woman's plate.
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Prev     More