His late wife Sunanda Pushkar's different frames dot the walls of his modest drawing room flanked by an imposing painting of MF Husain. The very talk of Sunanda makes the otherwise glamorous and flamboyant Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for HRD, gloomy. True, his personal loss is a gain for his detractors. At one point his opponents really sweated out in finding a candidate against him but now they feel they have a chance.
Posters have started appearing in the state capital questioning the mystery surrounding his wife's untimely death. Though the Congress has just finalized his candidature a virulent campaign had unfolded in Thiruvananthapuram long back both LDF and BJP are in a race to rake enough mud. And social media is also abuzz, even Mehr Tarar (the Pakistani journalist-writer) and Pakistani intelligence agency ISI are not spared.
In 2009 Tharoor with his cut-glass accent and chaste Malayalam was a novice. Some called him an 'imported candidate' and others dubbed him a 'Delhi Nair'. Notwithstanding his personal tragedy now he looks seasoned and confident. "I don't stoop to their level. How can they become so inhumane? My people know what I am," personal barbs make him indignant.
"When she was alive they made all sorts of insinuations against her. Even after death they aren't ready to spare her," he chides his detractors saying he's ready to suffer it rather in silence. True his party has stood with him when he needed it most. "It is a big personal loss. It is yet to sink in," he explains it.
Cattle class, interlocutor and sweat equity controversies dogged the diplomat- turned politician one after another. At times the ace writer, also a known linguist, had to toil hard to put forth his point. "I never courted controversies rather controversies forced to court me. Media hounded me badly. And some politicians also wanted to see my back," he explains it saying in his 29 years with the UN he worked closely with the international media and controversies never cropped.
In the last election his one-lakh majority was a big surprise to him also. But this time he's facing a fierce three-cornered contest. An also-ran in state politics BJP has fielded a strong candidate former minister of state for railways O Rajagopal, also a Nair. So there will be a split in Nair votes. Similarly the CPI has fielded a Christian Nadar, a dominant community here, (Bennet Abraham) eying a polarization. The fledgling AAP is also threatening to cut into his vote bank, women and youngsters. It has fielded ex-IPS officer and another former diplomat Ajit Joy, also Aravind Kejriwal's batch mate, against him.
But Tharoor is unmoved. "I don't go by my caste, creed or religion. My works speak for me," he flaunts a glossy pamphlet listing out 400-odd projects initiated by him in his constituency. Learned the tricks of the trade well, now he claims he knows his constituency as back of his palm.
Also a party spokesman he feels that time is not ripe to write off the oldest party and not amused by the 'Namo' wave. "Modi is basically a media creation. And his Gujarat growth story is fudged and ballooned," he feels his party will bounce back when the country needs it most and reels out history to buttress his point.
Though he's in the midst of a fierce battle and his opponents at their best to tarnish him he's sitting pretty in Ananthapuri, the abode of Lord Padmanabha (world's richest temple Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple is situated at the heart of the city). The rulers of erstwhile Travancore always ruled their princely state as 'Padmanabha dasas' (servant of god and people) like this Tharoor says he's unflinching faith in his people, favorite deity and party and wants to serve them well.