Thiruvananthapuram, March 19: Hours before the Congress tonight announced it would field Shashi Tharoor from Thiruvananthapuram, he gave away his candidature by driving to the house of party veteran K. Karunakaran.
Turned out in a juba, white mundu and tricolour shawl, Tharoor, who has spent much of his life outside India, looked every inch a Malayali.
Television cameras that followed the former UN official beamed a warm Tharoor-Karunakaran handshake. Speculation was abuzz that he had been cleared to contest from the Kerala capital. The confirmation from the party came at night.
As Tharoor emerged from Karunakaran’s house, reporters shot off a couple of questions in English. He replied in straight, modest Malayalam.
It would have been risky to imitate his illustrious predecessor, the late V.K. Krishna Menon, who won from Thiruvananthapuram in 1971. Menon’s Malayalam was poor, so he spoke less of it and made up with witticisms in English. But his reputation as an orator, especially his 13-hour marathon speech in the UN, was too fresh in the minds of voters for them to bother about his Malayalam.
Tharoor starts off with the image of an outsider — his familiarity with the land of his parents is through brief vacations spent in Palakkad — though he has tried hard to be seen and heard after losing the election for UN secretary-general election and buying a house in the city.
His principal rival, P. Ramachandran Nair of the CPI, is from North Parur in Ernakulam district. Nair is an advocate. If the BJP fields former minister . Rajagopal, who polled 200,000-plus votes last time, it will cut into Tharoor’s votes.