Thiruvananthapuram: Shashi Tharoor MP has emerged as a leading campaigner for the United Democratic Front all over the state. Candidates of the Congress-led alliance have been lobbying to get the Thiruvananthapuram MP to campaign in their constituencies.
Tharoor has been campaigning across the state for two weeks without rest. He has spoken for about 50 candidates in 11 districts. He will now focus his energy on campaigning for leaders such as former chief minister Oommen Chandy in Puthuppally and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala in Haripad.
Tharoor brings in a breath of fresh air to his campaigns. He is not interested in conventional public meetings known for political rhetoric. His style is to engage in debates with the voters. He views the campaign as an extension of an earlier initiative in which the people were involved in the preparation of the UDF’s election manifesto.
He views the debates as the best platform to respond to criticism and to clarify positions. He is stressing on the UDF manifesto to present the promise of a world-class Kerala.
Though Tharoor was active in the campaign scene in the previous two assembly elections, this is the first time his popularity has proven to be an asset. He admitted that he was not able to reach all constituencies and several candidates are peeved at him for that reason. He has been compensating his absence with recorded videos of appeal for the candidates.
Tharoor spoke to Onmanorama amid his hectic schedule.
You have travelled across Kerala. How do you rate the chances of the UDF?
The Congress is going to the polls with rookies forming more than half of the candidates. This is not usual for the Congress. It will take time for the voters to get familiar with the candidates. So, we were lagging a bit in the first phase. But the people have embraced the UDF once they were convinced that the candidates were able and efficient.
We could see that change for the past one week. Even we were surprised by the turnout at our programmes. We have been seeing unprecedented support this time.
All the surveys forecast an advantage for the LDF.
As far as Kerala is concerned, you have to personally meet at least 500 people in a constituency and scientifically analyse the data to know a trend. Even that may not be accurate. All other surveys are mere speculation. I do not think they should be taken seriously. As someone who has seen the people’s reaction directly, I have no doubt about a UDF victory. There are six more days to the voting. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson had said that a week is a very long time in politics. It is sure that UDF will have a surprise surge this time.
Have you benefited by the changes in campaign?
Definitely. Speeches in public meetings have their limitations. We were trying debates instead. People liked it. Thousands of people took part in each programme. Importantly, a large chunk of those people were not UDF supporters. I could share the ideas of the Congress and the UDF about Kerala’s future with them.
Surveys project your name as a chief minister candidate along with Chandy and Chennithala. Are you interested in state politics?
I am not a candidate. The Congress has many leaders with capability and experience. I do not dream in politics. I believe in realities. I was not sure of a victory when I faced my first election. It is a wonder that I have become a seasoned politician, winning three terms.
Can we expect more wonders?
I can’t say there won’t be any wonders in future but I am only concerned about fulfilling my responsibilities.