Tharoor, who won impressively in 2009, but just about scraped through in 2014, faces a very tough situation this time around. He is up against a spirited candidate and also seems let down by his own party workers who seem less than keen to work for his victory.
All good runs eventually come to a tame end, and it may be so for Shashi Tharoor, whose 10 years of representing the sprawling constituency Thiruvananthapuram as its MP may be headed for an unceremonious termination. Unless there is some dramatic turnaround in the last leg of campaigning, as per current indications in the constituency, the suave Tharoor may face defeat at the hands of BJP's Kummanam Rajasekharan, the former Governor of Mizoram. The LDF candidate is C Divakaran. He, with his strong trade union experience, is no pushover, either.
Tharoor, who won impressively in 2009, but just about scraped through in 2014, faces a very tough situation this time around. To his credit, Tharoor has endured and weathered, many a crisis in his high-profile, lurid political career, but now he is up against a spirited candidate and also seems let down by his own party workers who seem less than keen to work for his victory.
"It is no secret in Kerala that the local Congress workers see Tharoor as an outsider. A blue-eyed boy of the high command," says S K Sunil, a journalist. "In the previous two elections, he was able to overcome the handicap by running a smart campaign that appealed to a large cross--section of Nairs. But this time he is not sure of that support."
The Nairs comprise 39% of the 67% Hindu population of Thiruvananthapuram. It is certainly a vote-bank that can make a considerable difference to any candidate.
The general theory in Kerala politics is that the Nairs are backing the BJP (though not openly) in this election, which is being held in the aftermath of the highly surcharged 'Save Sabarimala' campaign.
The Nairs were upset with the way both the LDF and the UDF conducted themselves in the Sabarimala issue. Nairs, as a community, have been the quasi custodians of the temple, and they felt let down both by the Left and the Congress. They feel that trying to tinker with the traditions of the temple is an assault on their beliefs and customs.
The BJP is naturally seen as an ally of the Nairs in the current situation, as the party put an emotive show of support to maintain the existing rules and rituals of the temple.
The NDA candidate in 2014 O Rajagopal almost toppled Tharoor even when the Nairs were backing the latter. Now the ground realities are totally different. The BJP is particularly focused on the Assembly segments of Nemom, Thiruvananthapuram, Vattiyoorkavu and Kazhakkoottam.
"These localities are dominated by Hindu families who swear by traditions and rituals. If the BJP can make major headway in these parts, which looks likely, Rajasekharan can possibly edge out Tharoor," says Sunil.
The other problem for Tharoor is that his own party folk seem strangely lackadaisical in their efforts. With local poll surveys not being optimistic of Tharoor's chances, the Congressmen have further gone into a shell. Also, with Rahul Gandhi fighting from Wayanad, the party's energy and resources are focused there. Tharoor's campaign is more or less managed by his own chosen team.
"Tharoor conveys the impression of being standoffish. Some of it is surely assumed because of his English language, and his seemingly elitist ways because he was once a high-flying career diplomat. But even his attempts at humour to convey that he is one among the hoi polloi backfires," says Joseph J, a professor.
Joseph's words are a reference to Tharoor's ill-conceived tweet after his campaign at a fish market. Tharoor tweeted, “Found a lot of enthusiasm at the fish market even for a squeamishly vegetarian MP”. This along with a pic of him holding a fish wrapped in a newspaper was enough to further paint him as a snooty outsider.
The BJP and the Left inevitably picked the tweet and the pic and went to town with it. And Tharoor's efforts to defend himself only made his case worse.
Still, Tharoor has been braving out saying that he expects his victory margin to be better this time. That is a tall claim to make.
To be precise, it is a burst of rodomontade.
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Last Updated Apr 17, 2019, 3:52 PM IST