Thursday, May 7, 2009

Any journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step

He knows he will surely lose the election and he doesn’t stir out of his house to campaign. This however does not deter Lok Sabha candidate K.Elangovan from hitting out at to-be MPs for acting like members of local municipalities.

A former general secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students Union in New Delhi, Elangovan says he is in the field to tell voters that MPs go to parliament to frame laws, not to build roads or lay sewage drains.

“I get very angry when I hear politicians making silly promises,” said the independent candidate from the dominantly middle class South Chennai constituency. “Getting to the Lok Sabha is like being sent to the Constituent Assembly. Did Constituent Assembly members promise roads and drains?”

Added the articulate 47-year-old: “The Lok Sabha is where MPs will talk about Kashmir, about nuclear deal, about terrorism… They will make laws for the country. They may get elected from constituency A or B but they represent and work for the entire nation.

“If they start talking about roads and drains and such like, then why have state legislatures? Why have municipal bodies? Instead of explaining to the people what parliament is meant to do, political leaders from top to bottom, from Sharad Pawar to Jayalalitha, have made MPs municipal corporators.”
A criminal lawyer for 20 years, Elangovan loves Indian democracy despite its flaws. Born into a poor landless family in a village 120 km from Chennai, he eventually made it to JNU, the alma mater of Marxists Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, who too were student leaders there.

Elangovan was elected to the JNU students union on behalf of the All India Students Federation (AISF), the student wing of the Communist Party of India. He quit the party in 1990 but is still a Left liberal at heart.

South Chennai has 43 candidates, the highest in Tamil Nadu. Its two most formidable contestants are AIADMK district secretary Chitlappakkam Rajendran and DMK legal wing leader R.S. Bharati. BJP Tamil Nadu unit president L. Ganesan is also in the running. Tamil Nadu votes May 13.

So what are Elangovan’s chances of winning?
“I know I will be defeated soundly; it is the only probability,” he says laughing loudly. “I do not have the resources and time to match the biggies. I know my limitations.”
He is not campaigning in the classical sense. He will only put out Tamil pamphlets to explain to voters in South Chennai the importance of electing the right MP.

Elangovan’s closest allies in this battle are his numerous friends, ranging from auto-rickshaw drivers to lawyers. And he is happy his election symbol is “cricket bat” - an icon cricket-crazy Indians will easily recognise.

Elangovan does not mind losing the Rs.10,000 candidates deposit with the Election Commission when they sign up to contest but which they forfeit if they don’t secure a minimum percentage of votes.

“That will be my contribution to the electoral process which I admire in my country,” says the lawyer who is at home in both English and Tamil. “I don’t mind losing it.”

“The election is an opportunity to reach out to people. As a Chinese saying goes, any journey of 1,000 miles starts with the first step. For me, this is the first step.”

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