» News » The Auto Driver Who Is A Mayor

The Auto Driver Who Is A Mayor

March 26, 2022 12:18 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

His time will be divided 50-50, he says, between his autorickshaw and his work as mayor.

IMAGE: K Saravanan with his autorickshaw. All Photographs: Kind courtesy K Saravanan

It is not every day that an autorickshaw driver becomes mayor, but that's exactly what has happened to K Saravanan.

After the recent urban civic elections in Tamil Nadu, the Congress worker was elected mayor of the Kumbakonam municipal corporation in Thanjavur, a region well known for its ancient temples.

Saravanan, 42, says his hard work as a Congress worker in the area for many years led to his election victory. He adds that he had Congress district president T R Loganathan's support, which was the reason he was chosen the party's choice for the mayoralty.

The state Congress had been allotted Kumbakonam by its dominant ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kaziagam, in the civic elections.

Saravanan has been in politics for 20 years and this is the first election he contested.

"I joined the Youth Congress in 2002 and now I am the town vice-president of the Congress," Saravanan tells A Ganesh Nadar/

The reason Saravanan did not join the two Dravidian majors but instead chose the Congress was because his grandfather T Kumarasamy was in the Congress and also a former councillor in the corporation. "He was a councillor, so I too wanted to be one," he says.

Saravanan lost his parents young and was brought up by his grandfather. He has studied up to Class 10 in a Tamil medium school. His sons are in Classes 12, 11 and 5.

How he was chosen as mayor is interesting. State Congress president K S Alagiri asked the district Congress chief that since Kumbakonam had been allotted to the Congress by the DMK if he could think of a good party worker for the post.

T R Loganathan, Kumbakonam's Congress district president, told Alagiri about Saravanan and described him as a good worker of the party.

The autorickshaw driver was asked to come to the district party office where he was informed that he would be the next mayor of the temple town.

"I was stunned because I never expected this," says Saravanan.

Alagiri attended the swearing in ceremony and wished him well. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin spoke to K S Alagiri (not to be mistaken with M K Alagiri, the CM's estranged elder brother) on the phone during the event. Alagiri then handed over the phone to Saravanan.

"The chief minister asked if I was really an auto driver, I said yes. He told me I must do my best," Sarvanan recalls of that telephone conversation with Stalin.

The next day, Saravanan traveled to Chennai to meet Stalin. "He called me Auto Saravanan and said I could call him any time."

Saravanan had no clue he would be made mayor when he stood for the municipal election.

"My wife was very happy and surprised as she did not expect me to become mayor," he says, clearly happy with the spousal endorsement.

IMAGE: Saravanan with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin in Chennai.

Remembering his grandfather Kumarasamy, who was elected a member of the Kumbakonam municipality in 1976, Saravanan says, "He was the reason I joined the Congress. Mani Shankar Aiyar (the former diplomat and three-time Congress MP from Mayiladuthurai, of which Kumbakonam is an assembly segment) was known to my grandfather because of which he came to canvass for me. It is a matter of pride for me that such a senior person came to my ward and asked people to vote for me."

During pandemic times, life has been very difficult for this auto driver as his income reduced drastically.

"I managed with great difficulty and even though my income had been reduced I used to feed the people who sit outside temples during that time. That is why people like me."

Another reason for people to like him, he says, is that he is always punctual when his customers call him.

IMAGE: Saravanan shakes hands with Chief Minister Stalin.

As mayor, he says, his priorities for Kumbakonam are, "The underground drainage is very old, we have to renovate it. Then I have to see about drinking water. Garbage disposal is very important. If this is done properly, the mosquito menace will reduce."

Most contractors who take up corporation work in Tamil Nadu are affiliated to one political party or the other.

"I will not look for party affiliations when I see the work they are doing. They have to do good work. That is important," he says.

Sarvanan will continue to ply his autorickshaw. His time will be divided 50-50, he says, between his autorickshaw and his work as mayor.

"The past two days, my brother-in-law was driving my auto. I have told him to attend to all my regular customers," he says with a smile.

He knows most of the corporation officials. "I have told them they can approach me at all times. I told them I am an auto driver and they can tell me all their problems."

"As an auto driver people, I have always been available and that is why people voted for me," he adds.

IMAGE: A banner in Kumbakonam congratulates K Saravanan on becoming mayor.

"I will make Kumbakonam the best municipal corporation in Tamil Nadu," he promises.

For his swearing-in ceremony, he drove to the municipal corporation office in his autorickshaw. "I wanted everyone to know I am an auto driver," he says.

Will we see him as an MLA in the future, I ask. He laughs. "Definitely, by God's grace," he smiles.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox: