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On the campaign trail/Shashi Tharoor

Last updated on: April 6, 2011 16:02 IST

'LDF like Kumbhakarnan; it just sleeps and eats!'

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Shobha Warrier in Thiruvananthapuram
Shobha Warrier and photographer Sreeram Selvaraj accompany Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on the campaign trail.

The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee office in Thiruvananthapuram wears a deserted look. All its important leaders, it seems, have dispersed across Kerala to campaign for next week's assembly election.

Perhaps that is why even the clock on the office wall has stopped ticking; time, it appears, stands still for the Congress party.

Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor is back to campaign in his constituency, the state capital Thiruvanathapuram, and the rest of the state.

Ever since the Deccan Chronicle newspaper published a survey where Tharoor came a close second to Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi as the most admired leader among the youth in Kerala, he has become one of the party's most sought after campaigners.

This is despite his handicap with Malayalam, though he has improved considerably in his command over the language compared to what it was when he campaigned as a Lok Sabha candidate in these parts two years ago.

Photographer Sreeram Selvaraj and I decide to join him during a late evening campaign in Thiruvananthapuram.

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Image: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, accompanied by his supporters, campaigns in Thiruvanthapuram
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
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'If you want Arjuna, please vote for UDF'

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With the Election Commission not permitting election meetings to be held on the roads, Dr Tharoor's first meeting is in support of K Muraleedharan, the late Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran's son and the United Democratic Front candidate, inside a hall a few metres away from the road.

As soon as he gets out of the car, he is garlanded by the organisers as a few young men begin shouting, 'Shashi Tharoor Zindabad!'

Dr Tharoor plunges into his campaign rhetoric straightaway, criticising the ruling Left Democratic Front government.

"I know all of you know about Kumbhakarnan (Ravana's brother who loved sleeping). This government is like a Kumbhakarnan; like him, the government also sleeps continuously for six months, gets up, eats something and goes back to sleep again. In the last five years, they did nothing but sleep and eat."

"Just before the election, they woke up and signed a deal to start the Smart City. When Oommen Chandy was chief minister, he worked hard to sign the deal, but these people opposed it then. Now, after five years, just before leaving, they signed it to take the credit. Please don't fall into their trap."

"If you vote for them, they will sleep like Kumbhakarnan for another five years."

"Who do you want? A sleeping Kumbhakarnan or a valiant warrior like Arjuna? If you want Arjuna, vote for the UDF."


Image: The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee office in Thiruvananthapuram
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
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'These people were against mobile phones'

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Next, Dr Tharoor makes fun of "an ideology that belongs to the 19th century."

"These people (presumably, the Marxists who lead the Left Democratic Front) were against mobile phones once. It is another matter that all of them have mobile phones in their pockets now."

Loud applause follows this comment.

Dr Tharoor says he is disturbed with the way Kerala has turned out to be a consumer society where nothing is produced.

"There was a time when the Portuguese came here for our spices, but today, we have to bring in even green chillies from the neighbouring states. Kerala was named because of the coconut trees, but today Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have more coconut trees than us."

"After some time, we may have to change the name of the state. So, if you want Kerala to get back its lost glory, please vote for the UDF."


Image: Shashi Tharoor addresses a gathering in Thiruvananthapuram
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
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'Hope you know about the Titanic'

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Tharoor then compares the LDF government with the Titanic. Somehow, mention of that maritime disaster does not register with the audience.

"Hope you know about the Titanic."

Blank faces.

At the next meeting for Muraleedharan, Dr Tharoor speaks of Kumbhakarnan, mobile phones and Arjuna, but excludes the Titanic from his speech. The audience enjoys every bit of what he says, laughing at his subtle jibes at the LDF.


Image: Shashi Tharoor in campaign mode
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj
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