The wait for the Shashi Tharoor road show was exasperating under the mid-morning sun here on Wednesday. No Congress party worker of office-bearer was to be seen around the Vazhuthacaud area in the heart of the city even as an event featuring the party’s most popular leader was set to unfold.

A lottery seller by the roadside said he got to know the cavalcade had stalled in the busy Chalai market area from where it had rolled out. Apparently, DK Shivakumar, star campaigner and Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister, along with Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal, President of Indian Union Muslim League and prominent partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, had hopped on to Tharoor’s campaign vehicle in Chalai’s congested roads.

Indifferent response

Neither the woman traffic warden at Easwaravilasom junction, a few hundred metres ahead of Vazhuthacaud, nor autorickshaw drivers alongside, appeared to have any inkling of the event. A lone Congress tricolor fluttered in silent anticipation. Another few hundred metres down the road towards Jagathy, one ran into a pick-up van adorned with party colours and featuring pictures of senior leaders.

A street play enacted by a team accompanying the Shashi Tharoor road show in Thiruvananthapuram.

A street play enacted by a team accompanying the Shashi Tharoor road show in Thiruvananthapuram.

Its flat-bed platform morphed into a stage for street plays, overseen by Arjun who introduces himself as a party loyalist. He and co-artistes Bindu and Thulasi were engaged by the party in advance. Congress is invariably the first to call and book the team during elections. The team will be part of the road show for the last 10 days during when campaigning is allowed.

Thin winning margins

Team members belong to Attingal town, an hour by road from Thiruvananthapuram. All three had put on make-up and have been waiting for two hours. An election-time regular, Arjun sees lack of the usual fizz and numbers, citing the flailing intensity of campaigning and participation of activists. “This is true not just of Congress, but also of the Left and the NDA.”

The oppressive summer could be only one reason. “There is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu on the part of voters. This is fraught with implications for Kerala where winning margins are thin,” Arjun explains. It could be a funds issue for the Congress, but he can’t fathom what is holding back better-endowed LDF or NDA.

Run-in with NDA, EC

The street play team does eight to 10 shows from day till night, and has been drawing crowds during the evening hours. “We join the road show but limit shows to the minimum during the day. We play to not just party loyalists but others who make a crowd during night hours. The theme is a take-off on current political developments and is well-received.”

As campaigning reaches the final lap, an uncanny run-in with BJP candidate Rajeev Chandrasekhar and a reprimand from the Election Commission are not the best advertisement for Tharoor. A group of BJP activists in front of the central election committee office said these are signs of desperation from a three-time winner.

Invites strictures

Tharoor invited strictures for violating the code of conduct by levelling ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations against Chandrasekhar in an interview. He denied having named Chandrasekhar or the BJP and said the allegation was made as a ‘general observation’ as told to him by people. He would not elaborate anything beyond on the topic.