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Fading charm

Sunday, 23 March 2014 - 8:20am IST | Place: Thiruvananthapuram | Agency: dna

Is Union minister Shashi Tharoor, who is seeking re-election from Kerala's capital, a shadow of his former self? Last time around, he had won over the city's heart and votes; but in this election, the going may not be all that smooth given the controversies that have enveloped him.

The general feel in the city is that despite the controversies shadowing him, Tharoor may make it this time too on account of the enormous effort he has put in to lift the city out of its eternal cynicism and negative energy (strikes and protests) which shrouds it.

"Compared to the track records of former MPs, he has done a lot. We should be grateful to him," Sushama Menon, who teaches at a city college, said.

For a city that over the years had been cursed to do with nonperforming MPs, mostly Left apparatchiks, and some Congress non-entities, who won on caste-based votes, Tharoor is seen as an ideal man for this capital town capable of cutting through caste equations. Which is why in the last election two lakh votes shifted to him, just on his stature and glamour enabling him to win by over one lakh votes.

Lined up against him is an unknown entity, Bennett Abraham, the Left Front's CPI candidate, and O Rajagopal, the BJP stalwart, who has contested unsuccessfully from here at least four times like it was a death wish. The BJP is yet to win a seat in Kerala, either to the legislative assembly or parliament.

AAP has put up Ajit Joy, a former IPS officer here. If the contest gets close, Joy, could be a spoiler as he can suck out around 20,000 votes.

Rajagopal managed to secure 2,28,052 votes in 2004 when CPI's PK Vasudevan Nair won the seat with 2,86,057 votes. His main vote bank is the Brahmin community confined mostly to the East Fort area around the famous Padmanabhaswamy Temple. In 2009, BJP's Krisha Das got 84,000votes, but Rajagopal is expected to improve on it this time.

Bennet Abraham belongs to the Nadar community, which has managed to send many hitherto unknown faces to parliament, including Abraham Charles of the Congress, who won twice in the 80s.

There are both Christians and Hindus among the Nadars, and the idea here has been to consolidate the Christian Nadar and fishermen (mostly Christian) community votes, a strategy that has worked in the past.

Tharoor has worked hard among the fishermen community to break this jinx and last time they voted for him. The powerful Nair community and the affluent Christians votes in the fully-literate city is likely to remain with him.

Tharoor has a slew of achievements to his credit. He spent 107.6 per cent of his MP Fund, the highest by any of the 20 LS members from the state. His major achievements have been the new airport terminal, the Air India engineering hub, 14 new trains, getting Oracle to set up shop in IT park, and opening of the consulates of the UAE, Sri Lanka and Germany in the city.

But Tharoor has also disappointed many who had high expectations. "I had expected more from him," said Rajan Mathew, a banker.

Undoubtedly, the death of his wife, Sunanda Pushkar, and his penchant for courting controversy have eclipsed his image. "Nobody can predict how the death of his third wife will work in the mind of the voters who still go by traditional values," a senior Congress leader told dna. CPM leader VS Achuthanandan has demanded an FIR against Tharoor for the suspicious death of his wife.

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