A former chief minister having tea at a roadside kiosk is a rare sight in any part of the country. But in former French colony Puducherry, one can run into N Rangaswamy, chief minister for two terms, doing just that, while talking to people and going through a newspaper.
Is this a
down-to-earth image he's trying to build up?
After he was expelled from the Congress following a shakeup in 2008, Rangaswamy vowed to get back at the party he had served for more than 40 years. And, in alliance with the AIADMK, he is seeking re-election for the third time on April 13.
Last month he floated his own party, the All India NR Congress, and has even tied up with the AIADMK's alliance partners. AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa has declared Rangaswamy the alliance's chief ministerial candidate and had campaigned for him in this union territory.
And campaigning for the assembly elections is just an extension of what he has been doing since his ouster, meeting more and more people.
On Saturday, a burst of crackers announced the arrival of Rangaswamy's convoy - a few motorcycle riders, two open jeeps and couple of vehicles - at Ossudu village at the entrance of Puducherry. People came out of their homes and shops nearby in no time to wish him well. A man of few words, he would just remind the voters of the polling day and move on to the next village through the narrow lanes and bylanes.
"For the last two and a half years the Congress has not implemented any of the schemes started by me. Neither have they done anything to develop the infrastructure of Puducherry," Rangaswamy told Hindustan Times when he stepped down from the jeep to talk to voters. His one wave was enough to silence his slogan-shouting supporters.
"I will get full majority," the former chief minister said confidently.
Caste equations in the state favour Rangaswamy, who belongs to the dominant Vanniyar caste, which constitutes some 60% of the population in the union territory. He is contesting in two constituencies.
Why was he ousted from the CM's post?
"This you must ask them (chief minister V Vaithalingam)," Rangswamy said before driving to the next halt.
NR Congress is contesting in 17 seats, leaving the rest to its alliance partners - 10 to the AIADMK and one each to the DMDK, CPI(M) and CPI.