In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi faces two of the biggest losers in India's electoral history.
While K Padmarajan, a shop owner in Tamil Nadu, has challenged Modi in Vadodara (Gujarat), lawyer Narendra Nath Dubey is up against him in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh).
Padmarajan, who has made his way to the Limca Book of Records, doesn't feel like a loser. In fact, he sees much to celebrate in the 158 times he has stood for public office and failed.
"I always chose to contest against newsmakers. At the moment, if there's one VIP who's making all the headlines, it's Narendra Modi," Padmarajan says.
Dubey, 47, is nicknamed Adig (resolute). True to the moniker, he has been firm about losing every election since 1984 when he contested Varanasi's Cheraigaon assembly constituency, which is now Ajagara (reserved).
He has since contested every election from the municipal to the presidential kind, losing more than 40 of them. But his hunger for more losses — despite losing a fortune in deposits — remains insatiable, so much so that he does not vote for himself.
"My sole motive is to get my name included in Guinness Book of World Records for losing maximum elections. This drives me for contesting every election," says Dubey.
On the other hand, Padmarajan started out in 1988 as he had a point to prove — to those who laughed at the ambitions of a man who repaired tyres for a living and to the cynics who scorned Indian democracy with all its flaws and inefficiencies.
"Back then, I owned a cycle puncture repair shop and a thought struck me that I, an ordinary man with an ordinary income and no special status in society, could contest the elections."
He lost. And then lost again and again, In all, he says he has forfeited 1.2 million rupees in deposits, in the process earning a place in the Limca Book of Records, the national repository of India's eccentric record-making.
Over 26 years, he has competed hopelessly for local assembly seats and Parliament, often standing against big names such as prime ministers AB Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh.
Shop owner K Padmarajan poses alongside a returning officer as he hands over papers relating to his 158th electoral contest in Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. (AFP photo/K Padmarajan)
A social worker by passion, Dubey is excited about sharing his name with Narendra Modi.
The Gujarat chief minister, he feels, will make it easy for him to lose but he expects to get some votes this time for a change.
"Some people might go for a local Narendra, who can do a lot for Varanasi if given a chance," Dubey says, unfazed by the hype around his namesake and Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal, another bigwig in the fray.
The 'habitual loser' regrets not having been able to challenge Pranab Mukherjee for the President's job in July 2012.
Padmarajan, however, says he has never contested to win.
"… the results just don't matter to me," laughs the entrepreneur whose tyre shop has flourished alongside his other business, a homeopathic medical practice.
His best result came in 2011 when he stood for an assembly seat in his home constituency of Mettur in southern Tamil Nadu state.
He won 6,273 votes, raising the prospect that one day he could be victorious.
"I'm just someone who is very keen on getting people to participate in the electoral process and cast their vote and this is just my means of generating awareness on the same."
But much ahead of Padmarajan and Dubey, another man holds the record for the total number of failures. Kaka Joginder Singh, who died in 1998, stood for office more than 300 times.
(with AFP inputs)