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'I Had Never Asked For Votes Before'

Last updated on: May 10, 2024 14:03 IST
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BJP candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar's wife and son who keep themselves far from the political limelight reveal what it is like to campaign for the first time.

IMAGE: Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha candidate, during a roadshow from Vandithadam to Udiyankulangara. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rajeev Chandrasekhar/X

On a hot summer day in Thiruvanthapuram, Anju and Ved, Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar's wife and son casually look for seating in the hotel lobby.

They are unaccompanied, no political or hotel staff escorts them. The mother-son quietly find a sofa, order a hot and cold coffee and settle down without a whiff of importance that one expects from politicians, their families and staff.

In Thiruvanthapuram, the BJP's Rajeev Chandrasekhar is in a close contest with Congressman Shashi Tharoor and the CPI's P Raveendran -- it is Kerala's most watched fight in this election.

Mrs Chandrasekhar had travelled from their home in Bengaluru to campaign for her husband. Most of her campaigning was done separately, meeting groups of people, going door to door etc over three-and-a-half weeks.

In the last few days, she was joined by her son Ved, who worked for Cred for a year, then moved to Jupiter Capital founded by his father, and is soon moving to its subsidiary company that deals with deep tech.

Although Rajeev Chandrasekhar has been a Rajya Sabha MP since 2006, this is the first foray in a Lok Sabha election, the House of the People.

Like all candidates who have been braving the intense summer heat, Chandrasekhar had been out there seeking votes amongst the people since March 4. After his constituency voted on April 26, he moved to Delhi as one of the BJP's spokespersons during the campaign.

"Rajeev is driven by service. It is fabulous that he got this opportunity. He has converted this into a mission and ran a different kind of campaign," says wife Anju, adding that she herself was full of trepidation when she first stepped into the field.

The couple hails from Kerala, but built a home and life in Bengaluru. They met in the United States and had an arranged marriage. After Mr Chandrasekhar was handpicked to contest the high-profile seat which many believe could bring the BJP's first Lok Sabha victory in Kerala, they rented a flat in the city.

Both Chandrasekhar and Raveendran, the BJP and CPI candidates, could not vote because the former is a registered voter in Bengaluru and the latter in Kannur.

IMAGE: Anju Chandrasekhar with son Ved during the interview. Photograph: Archana Masih for

"My dad is extremely patriotic. He wanted to be an IAF pilot like his father, but couldn't because of his vision. He has always wanted to bring about change," says Ved, polite and relaxed as he sits beside his mother.

Educated abroad like his parents, Ved returned to India and has been working in Bengaluru.

The Chandrasekhars' daughter, Devika, is a lawyer in London, and was in constant touch with her brother and mother to keep herself informed about the going-ons of the campaign, sending messages at 4.30 am UK time to keep up with her father's poll debut.

"This was a new experience for all of us. I had never gone out asking for votes before. I can ask people to vote for Prime Minister Modi, but how do I tell people to vote for my husband? It was not easy at first, but I learnt quickly," says Anju Chandrasekhar.

She says even though their Malayalam is not perfect, both her husband and she can read and write the language.

"I told people in Malayalam, 'You have voted for one person for 15 years. Give him one chance and you will not be disappointed," says Mrs Chandrasekhar who is an admirer of the prime minister.

One of the things that she prayed for was Rajeev's health through the two gruelling summer months. "He lost his voice once, thankfully nothing besides that."

IMAGE: BJP supporters wave party flags during Rajeev Chandrasekhar's roadshow. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rajeev Chandrasekhar/X

Though Chandrasekhar joined the BJP in 2018, the family has continued to live in Bengaluru and has stayed away from the political spotlight.

"We haven't met any of the big BJP leaders, in fact we haven't met any politicians and do not have much of a connection with political life," says Mrs Chandrasekhar who speaks in a soft and calm voice.

"In the last 5 years, we have barely met dad, forget any other politicians," interjects Ved in good humour as mother-son laugh in a friendly chat, sharing their thoughts with relaxed ease.

"Life hasn't really changed because he is in politics, except that we don't see much of him. We are in Bangalore, away from the Delhi culture," continues Anju Chandrasekhar.

Her husband has followed a busy schedule especially after becoming a minister. The family hasn't taken a holiday together for three years which gives a sense of the tight ship run by the prime minister.

Chandrasekhar did not get time to attend his children's graduation overseas -- and when he comes home to Bengaluru for the weekend once in two-three months, there are always some political matters to attend to in the city.

He used to be a music buff, but doesn't find time for that any more, says his wife.

"There have been times I have called him before boarding a flight to Delhi and when I land, I come to know he has flown to Shimoga or Mizoram," says Ved with a laugh.

"But we love what he is doing. It is fabulous. His work ethic is such that there is no tomorrow," adds Mrs Chandrasekhar.

IMAGE: Anju Chandrasekhar with her son Ved. Photograph: Archana Masih for

Mother and son say that they understand the importance of Chandrasekhar's work which is his mission and want to give him all the space he needs.

"I would say it has been an adjustment for us; I wouldn't say it has been tough," says Ved who himself has had an informative experience campaigning for his father.

"People are hyper politicised in Kerala, say compared to Bengaluru, where many a times people don't even know their polling booth or their candidates."

"Everybody has a political opinion in Kerala and whether that opinion is based on fact, fiction or ideology is irrelevant," he continues.

Baffled about the spread of false information, especially on Manipur, through WhatsApp forwards, he says, "People get information from random WhatsApp forwards which should not be taken seriously, but here it was gospel truth."

The other revelation for him was the card carrying, die-hard voters of the two entrenched political formations in the state.

"As a son of a BJP MP, if the BJP is not doing what I see for my future or my constituency, I will not vote for them, but here whether a party delivers or not, the voters will support it," Ved says.

"I met a retired Congress voter who insisted on voting Congress without looking at the candidate's track record, development performance, vision for the future, data or logic. But when you talk to them point on point, they have no counter argument," says Ved.

At the same time, he was overwhelmed by the support for his dad, especially among the youth.

"He has a stellar track record, if I may say so myself, and that is what will make people vote for him."

And what if he is defeated?

"We don't speak about that, we focus on the goal. We will cross that bridge when we get there and if we get there," he says.

And if he wins, would he get a higher profile in Modi 3.0?

"Touch wood! All that we don't know yet," quips Mrs Chandrasekhar.

On the way out, she shares a family nugget that would be familiar with many of us who are on family WhatsApp groups.

Theirs is called the 'Chandrasekhars' where the most active member is Mr Chandrasekhar.

"He posts more than all of us and once got so annoyed because both kids were not posting back that he took them out of the group which left only Rajeev and me on the group!" she laughs.

"He sends a lot of funny stuff," says Ved giving a sense of of the family's posts in the digital meeting place that has unified friends, families and loved ones around the world -- which makes them seem just like any other family.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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