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COA News 2024

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With three times’ luck, the Tharoor charm continues to draw crowds

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It’s a hot day in Thiruvananthapuram and Shashi Tharoor is a hot property. Sun-tanned and hoarse-voiced after countless speeches at intersections, marketplaces and local temples, Tharoor enjoys his summer skirmishes. The air is thick with the salty breath of the ocean, and he fights to preserve his bailiwick, which has a large minority population on the coast. His pitch is not limited to Thiruvananthapuram. “At all my pit stops, I say that my main objective is to change the Modi government in Delhi,” he explains. The BJP’s Christian outreach seems vulnerable after the pogroms in Manipur. During Sunday sermons, priests advise their flock to “vote according to your conscience and love for your brothers.”

Tharoor’s anti-Modi rhetoric turns local elections into a national battle against division; a smart tactic. “Without trying too hard, my popularity seems to have grown,” he laughs, citing recent opinion polls. Tharoor and his BJP rival Rajeev Chandrashekar trade snarky barbs. “Rajeev’s main motivation is to be a successful businessman. It is shameful that he has structured his finances in such a way that he barely pays taxes,” says Tharoor, adding, “If a Desh Bhakti Party candidate behaves this way, what kind of patriotism is this?”

Everywhere in Thiruvananthapuram is teeming with shop verandas, temple precincts and auditoriums with Tharoor Bhakts. Men, women and children rush out of their homes to greet his convoy. Tharoor waves back animatedly. There is mutual excitement, even genuine sympathy. For fifteen years they have seen him on these streets – at Thiruvallam Chitranjali junction, Vandithadam, Punchakkari and Konchiravallah; the novelty factor doesn’t count. “I won my first election while stumbling and sleepwalking through some of the minefields and pitfalls of politics,” Tharoor recalls. He crossed it unscathed, but the mines are there. Tharoor does not take sides and would rather be an outsider than participate in the regional power game. “People would say at first that I am not a politician and an outsider. No one says that anymore because I won three elections.”

But perception hasn’t completely disappeared, which ironically is its strength. The outsider who renounces the white cotton uniform of the professional Congress politician and wears his trademark kurta and dhoti is more trusted by voters than the career politicians whose theatrical intimacy disappears after the last vote is cast. Tharoor’s personal and emotional bond with the voters is palpable. He steps out of his campaign van at the Nelliyode Devi Temple for a short prayer. The goddess seems to like him too; an old woman blesses him. Tharoor’s demeanor is affectionately familiar in the way he places his hand on a worker’s shoulder as they chat like old acquaintances. The famous Tharoor charm is alive and well.

The women of Thiruvananthapuram remain under his spell, thronging the sidewalks, shops and gates of their homes; some stirred the stuffy air with bamboo fans embossed with his face. The Left candidate is Pannyan Raveendran (CPI), a long-haired septuagenarian and retired Lok Sabha MP, who pulled Pinarayi Vijayan from his armchair where he was reading Marx or Manorama. It is ironic to see red, tricolor and saffron flags flying side by side in many places; a confederation of power seekers who seem to accommodate each other, at least outwardly.

Winning Thiruvananthapuram is important for the Congress, although many Khadi leaders distrust Tharoor. Tharoor’s anti-Modi trope makes him a national batsman. “Here the candidate folds his hands, says a few words, takes scarves and goes to the next pit stop. Now when I talk about bringing change in Delhi, I get applause, which is very unusual in situations like this. It means people are responding to my message.”

His message for Kerala? “Making Kerala’s voice heard nationally means fighting for the idea of ​​India and democratic values.”

A young woman with a banking job arrives at a small intersection

to watch him campaign. She and her family used to be communists. This time they will vote for Tharoor.

“Why not the BJP?”

“They just want to build temples,” she laughs.

For now, it is Shashi Tharoor’s attempt to sanctify his career with a fourth win. “He goes to weddings, funerals and even children’s birthdays,” says a famous Malayalam writer wryly. Even before the elections were announced, Tharoor had released a progress report for the constituency claiming success in completing the Kazhakoottam-Karode National Highway Bypass, setting up new railway stations and successfully implementing the village adoption plan. The friendly Congressman explains, “There will be state elections in two years and I hear people saying that my real goal is to become CM. I entered politics with a national and international vision and I would much prefer that we form the government in Delhi in June.”

He laughs and says he has reached his political expiration date. Given the visible enthusiasm of the voters, the shelves are still stocked with the Tharoor brand. How much has been sold will not be announced until next month.