Poll cafe: When politics came to the menu of TVM’s top three candidates

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, LDF candidate Pannyan Raveendran and sitting MP Shashi Tharoor. Photo: Manorama.

Thiruvananthapuram: Politics took a back seat at the table when the three high-profile candidates from Thiruvananthapuram stepped into 'Poll Cafe" for breakfast with the Malayala Manorama editorial team.

Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar glanced at the spread and declared that the dosa-egg combo is palatable for him. Congress's Shashi Tharoor chipped in, saying he is not choosy, and could eat from a roadside eatery, thattukada, and star hotel alike.

The LDF candidate, Pannyan Raveendran of the CPI, however, said he did not have many choices. "I am not used to upmarket hotels," the communist leader said. "I can't afford it either," he added. Chandrasekhar declared his food policy when asked about his favourite: "I don't mix politics with food."

The ghee roast on the table failed to grab Raveendran's attention despite its aroma, while Tharoor showed no reluctance in having idlis. He asked for two cups of coffee, which he had before and after idlis.

Chandrasekhar, meanwhile, decided to stick to juice. "I added two-and-a-half kilograms in two weeks while campaigning in the northeast," he did not hide his concern about his body weight.

It was then Chandrasekhar's secretary noticed the leader's tri-colour shawl. A saffron shawl that appeared in no time replaced it and put the Union minister at ease.

Tharoor is a heavyweight as he has been representing Thiruvananthapuram for the third consecutive term. Chandrasekhar carries the popularity of being a three-time Rajya Sabha MP and the Union minister. Raveendran is a familiar face in the constituency, which he had represented once.

Tharoor went down memory lane and recalled the Palakkad district Congress committee's invitation to seek the mandate from there. "I felt the city was better. There was opposition in the KPCC. I told Sonia-ji that I am not contesting anywhere else other than Thiruvananthapuram," he reminisced.

"I got more votes from rural areas in all the three elections. I realised that the people believed that I know enough Malayalam to understand their issues, and English and Hindi to present them in Delhi," Tharoor shared his experience.

Raveendran recalled how he became a candidate. "PK Vasudevan Nair was representing Thiruvananthapuram when he died. I was asked to contest from the segment. Other prominent personalities, including Comrade K Karunakaran, too, persuaded me," he said.

The CPI leader's 'Comrade K Karunakaran' usage triggered a laugh. Raveendran said he had spent more time in Thiruvananthapuram than in his home district, Kannur.

Chandrasekhar felt the voters were not bothered about the candidate's state, district, or community. Those are all injected by the politicians.

"More than individuals, the organisation's policies, and what all could be done if elected are important," he justified. The Union minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought his opinion regarding contesting to the Lok Sabha in August itself. The constituency, Thiruvananthapuram, was finalised last month.

"I have been in touch with this city since 1995 as an industrialist," he added. Tharoor recalled meeting Chandrasekhar at former Union minister Murli Deora's residence in 2008 and added that they have been friends since then. He also mentioned playing cricket with Raveendran.

Raveendran could not remember meeting Chandrasekhar earlier. The Union minister said he had met the CPI leader before. The conversation that lasted one-and-a-hours did not stray into politics or the campaign. However, it soon focused on the Vizhinjam port.

Tharoor said that his discussion with Gautam Adani during a New York trip changed the fate of the Vizhinjam port at a time when no investors were interested in it. Raveendran intervened and changed the topic when the MP expressed sadness over the Pinarayi government's reluctance to award compensation that the Oommen Chandy dispensation had included in the Budget.

Chandrasekhar became serious. "I agree with Shashi in certain matters and disagree in some others. But these are not to be discussed over idli and vada," he said. Tharoor played along. "We did not get vada, only idli was served," he lightened the situation.

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