‘I have many elections ahead’

| | Updated on: Apr 02, 2014
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At Sivaganga, the odds do seem stacked against Karti Chidambaram

“I use a small trick to know if women are connecting with me… today the women shook hands with me; that’s a good sign”, says Karti Chidambaram, Congress candidate from Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu.

Karti has ‘taken over’ from his father P Chidambaram, the constituency’s sitting MP. At a roadside meeting in front of a mosque in Kazhugarkadai, a village with 500 Muslim families and 25 km from Madurai, Chidambarm and Karti jointly address a modest gathering. The mercury is soaring, the Finance Minister looks tired, subdued, but seeks votes for his son.

“Remember the BJP is an offspring of the RSS, from which came Gandhi’s killer. They have no place for Muslims, Christians, Dalits or women; the Congress embraces everybody,” he says.

He waits respectfully for a minute as the afternoon Azan is recited, reiterates the good work done by the Congress. There is no direct reference to J Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK, whose candidate PR Senthilnathan, a debutant like Karti, seems miles ahead in the race.

In 2009, Chidambaram had managed an unconvincing victory through a slim margin in a controversial result. Chidambaram leaves immediately after the short meeting; Kari and I dive into his refreshingly chilled Merc SUV for a chat as it races to the next venue.

On this being a tough fight, Karti says: “I know the political reality; I also know the strength of the Congress organisation in Sivaganga. It’s a well-oiled, deep-rooted political machinery. I can reach out to the nooks and corners of the constituency; can the BJP reach such small villages in Tamil Nadu?”

The positives He next reels out the “positive things” done by his father. “Central government programmes work well here; we’ve opened many bank branches and 10 Bharti schools, deepened over 400 village tanks, BHEL has come here as also Reliance and Essar call centres. We’ve given 19,000 students loans in the constituency in the last five years,” he says.

“What has the AIADMK done? Opened liquor shops. We say padi, padi, padi (study) through student loans; they say kudi, kudi kudi (drink)!”

Barely 20 metres from the mosque, Abu Taher, caretaker of an orchard, shakes his head and says: “We never saw the father or son here in the last five years. Why would anybody here vote for him?” He thinks it’ll be Jayalalithaa’s victory.

Whether it is Ramesh, a lorry driver, or Kannan, a panchayat member in the next village, they laugh away the Congress’ chance of victory.

Karti puts on a brave face and shrugs when asked if he is prepared to lose in an election where the Congress can’t find any ally. “I am confident of winning; but then I am young and have many elections ahead of me. I’ve come to this place in good times and bad, and am not going to run away,” he says.

Published on April 02, 2014

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