‘I am quite familiar with the people’

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I have a functional knowledge of Malayalam

and can communicate without fuss

The diplomat-turned-politician, Shashi Tharoor, is all set to make his political debut from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency.

Tharoor came to the limelight when he was made the country’s official candidate for the United Nations Secretary-General’s post to succeed Kofi Annan in 2006. Mr. Tharoor, named ‘global leader of the world’ by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1998, is confident of his leadership skills. He spells out his priorities in a chat with N.J. NAIR.

Are you familiar with the constituency?

I am indeed familiar with the constituency. The capital is not strange turf to me. I have been a frequent visitor to this city where my paternal uncle had settled for long. I nurture nostalgic memories about the streets getting cleaned by the rains during the 60s. Memories of those days when I visited the city along with my parents are fresh in my mind. Bombay and Thiruvananthapuram had perhaps the cleanest and tidiest streets. Now, both cities have changed considerably.

Still, I hope that there are many things that could be done to invite international focus to the city.

Why did you choose to enter politics at this juncture and not earlier?

About two years ago I moved to the city and have a house here. I am quite familiar with the people and their problems. As soon as my U.N. assignment was over, I entered politics. I don’t think it was a belated entry.

Are you aware of the local political and development issues?

Yes. I am aware of the local issues like development of Vizhinjam port, restoration of the High Court bench, commutation woes of the people as also their basic needs pertaining to drinking water and housing, to just name a few.

What will be the focus of your campaign?

I have laid out my campaign plans as per the diktats of the Congress High Command and the UDF leaders. My thrust is on development. Thiruvananthapuram should earn the twin-city status with another European city. Twinning means cooperation and sharing of resources in realms such as cultural, educational and other development aspects for a thorough change. Considering the rich bio-diversity and the presence of educational institutions, the capital could be developed as a prime education destination, especially for research in bio-diversity. The time has come to develop a metro-railway network to link the suburbs with the city. Meaningful interventions would also help to improve the civic amenities and ease the numerous problems being faced by the people in the city as well as the rural areas.

How do you rate yourself as a candidate and as a politician?

I may not have instant answers to the volley of questions raised by the public or solutions to the myriad problems affecting the State as well as the constituency in particular, but I am a patient listener and committed to the cause of serving the people with an open mind. I will be accessible, accountable and will try to rise up to the aspirations of the poor and the needy. An MP should have a thorough grasp of the issues from the gram panchayat level and that would help avoid regional imbalances while expending his funds. On getting elected, I will use my diplomatic skills, presence and wide acceptability in the national and international political circles for securing to the Capital its rightful due.

Are you conscious of the regional and local compulsions?

The argument that I am not so adept at Malayalam does not bother me. I have a fair functional knowledge of Malayalam and can communicate with the public without fuss. Equally significant is the skill and acceptability to raise issues in Parliament, which I think I have, and will not let down anyone on that score.

After the elections, without considering the poll outcome, will you continue in State politics?

I do not have any short-term goals. I am confident of winning the election with a respectable margin and will continue in State politics.

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