Who on earth wins by 99,999 votes? Well, Shashi Tharoor, the surprise candidate in this election, does. And that too from Thiruvananthapuram, not an easy constituency to win from.
Sitting in his luxurious hotel suite in Delhi, the dapper Tharoor is modest about his spectacular win in Kerala, where not only did he find himself against strong opponents, “but also many from within my own party”.
He could not speak the Sankritised Malayalam that most Kerala politicians are adept at, but, he says, he spoke from the heart.
On the question of him having lived abroad for much of his life, he says, “I am an outsider and an insider.” He points out that many Malayalis go outside for work simply because there is no work to be had in Kerala. He says that given his profile, he will be able to push for Kerala at the Centre, something that has not been happening for a long time.
Thiruananthapuram, he says, is a microcosm of all that’s wrong with India where there is dire need to improve ports, airports, highways and infrastructure. And, he will do all that, given the chance.
He is dismissive of the Marxists, though he talks of being in touch with the state unit. “You cannot be prisoners of 19th century ideology and hope to make a go of things. They conducted themselves irresponsibly, encouraged mob rule, and that’s where things have ended up. For God’s sake, BMW wanted to put up a factory in Kerala. But on the spot, we had a hartal against it, so off they went to Tamil Nadu. This kind of bigotry doesn’t work any more.”
The Marxists, he says, should at least have followed the doctrine of Den Xiaoping, that it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.
On the BJP, he says that bigotry and fundamentalism are so alien to India, a majoritarian ethos is something that most people here find unacceptable.
Tharoor wants to focus on development, He is looking at infrastructure. According to him, Vizhinjam port of Thiruvanathapuram is a much more natural harbour than even Colombo. So he feels that the way ahead is Rahul Gandhi’s desire to push for education, drinking water, sanitation and roads.
The party workers on the ground were not too thrilled by this outsider. But at the end of the day, says Tharoor, they all pulled together.