Germany's Indian mayor to rescue ruling Social Democrats

Published on Sep 16, 2004 09:00 PM IST

Altlandsberg in eastern Germany has long been known for its medieval church and its stork nests, but today it is known, above all, for its long-serving Indian mayor Ravindra Gujjula.

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HT Image
PTI | ByPress Trust of India, Altlandsberg (germany)

Altlandsberg in eastern Germany has long been known for its medieval church and its stork nests, but today it is known, above all, for its long-serving Indian mayor Ravindra Gujjula.

On Sunday, Gujjula will put his popularity in Altlandsberg to the test for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats in the state of Brandenburg, in a neck-and-neck race with the successors of the former communist rulers.

He presents himself as Germany's "only mayor of colour" and he is also one of the country's most appreciated town leaders. Last year, electors in this town of 8,875 residents returned him to office with 80 per cent of the vote.

Given his support, the SPD has dropped him into a new electoral district for the poll to face heavyweights from the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the former communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS).

"My greatest success is that they consider me one of their own and not a guest or just a nice guy," he said as he rolled through the main street in his powerful black Mercedes.

"You see these houses," said the diminutive, mustachioed doctor gesturing with perpetually moving hands, "two thirds of them have been renovated since I was elected in 1993," four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A few rundown facades still look drably out from the town, like many in eastern Germany where Gujjula came to live at the age of 19 to study medicine and has since married a German wife, had two children and changed nationality.

He inherited his taste for politics from his parents; his father was a member of parliament for the Communist Party of India, his mother a feminist activist with the National Federation of Indian Women.

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