K Padmarajan loves to be a loser against political heavyweights. But he has beaten Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in filing his nomination for one of the two Rajya Sabha seats from Assam, falling vacant later this month.
Exactly 24 hours before the PM is scheduled to file his nomination, the 48-year-old Padmarajan filed his before the Assam Assembly Secretary GP Das. He shelled out Rs 5,000 as security deposit, but could not fulfill the other requirement for an RS nomination—signature of support from at least 10 MLAs. His nomination, thus, is likely to be rejected prior to the election slated for May 24.
"I have already spent Rs 7 lakh contesting 81 elections before. Today's expenditure makes no difference," said Padmarajan, who runs a tyre retreading unit at Mettur in Tamil Nadu's Salem district. He added challenging VVIPs was a passion for him, and hoped contesting his 82nd election against the PM would make him acquire a place into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Having contested against President APJ Abdul Kalam, his predecessor KR Narayanan, former prime ministers PV Narasihma Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former TN chief minister J Jayalalithaa, Padmarajan had in 2003 entered the Limca Book of Records as the most unsuccessful candidate with losses in 57 elections in various categories.
While the maverick Padmarajan made up his mind "in a few seconds" to fly into the city and contest the RS poll, the Opposition parties—Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), BJP, Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), AGP (Pragatisheel) and the Left parties—are yet to decide on a consensus candidate for the second seat. The Congress had declined to nominate a candidate for the second seat in order to ensure Singh's victory.
A candidate for each of the two seats needs 43 votes—a little more than one-third the total strength of the House—in the 126-member Assam Assembly. The Congress has a tally of 71 with the support of coalition partner Bodoland Peoples' Progressive Front (Hagrama) and some independents. The Opposition parties have a potential strength of 48 MLAs provided they get over their differences.
The picture is expected to become clearer on Wednesday following a key meeting of the minority-specific AUDF. The outcome of this meeting would either pave the way for a consensus candidate or leave the Opposition fractured enough for the Congress to nominate a second candidate. "We are waiting and watching which way they (Opposition) will go," said a senior Congress leader.
With the BJP and AUDF at daggers drawn, the probability of an AGP leader becoming the consensus candidate is the strongest. "Besides, the others should reciprocate for a series of sacrifices we have made vis-à-vis RS elections," said an AGP leader.