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A smooth ride: Autorickshaw driver is new mayor in Tamil Nadu

The 42-year-old, who emerged as the dark horse in the race to the top post in the temple city, arrived for the oath-taking ceremony riding his autorickshaw.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: March 8, 2022 6:59:40 am
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Saravanan said he was shocked when the party informed him that he had been nominated to the top post.

K Saravanan, a 42-year-old autorickshaw driver, has assumed charge as the first Mayor of Kumbakonam corporation in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district. Seeking to underline the message that he is still one among the people, Saravanan arrived for the oath-taking ceremony on Friday riding his autorickshaw.

The ruling DMK in the state had nominated candidates from the party to head 20 of the 21 corporations in the state, setting aside one mayoral post for the Congress. Though the post was expected to go to one of the several senior party functionaries waiting in the wings, the Congress high command hand-picked Saravanan for the job.

Saravanan is also the first mayor of Kumbakonam which was recently upgraded as a corporation. In the polls held in ward 17 of the temple city, he secured 964 of the total 2,100 votes to emerge the winner.

K Saravanan at the oath-taking ceremony.

Many prominent Congress leaders took to Twitter to congratulate Saravanan and appreciated the party leadership for picking a candidate from a modest background.

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Speaking to indianexpress.com, Saravanan said he was shocked when the party informed him that he had been nominated to the top post.

“Thanjavur North Congress Committee district leader T R Loganathan asked me to come to the district office and said he had a surprise for me. I was clueless. When I reached the office, he gave me a rousing reception saying: ‘Welcome, Kumbakonam’s first Mayor’. I was shocked. I never expected this because there are so many senior leaders and functionaries,” Saravanan said.

“I told him that I am just an auto driver, but our leader said I have the qualities to become the Mayor and the party will support me in all possible ways. Later, our state president K S Alagiri congratulated me and I received a call from Chief Minister M K Stalin who asked me whether I really rode an autorickshaw for a living and I said yes. He expressed his happiness in providing me the opportunity and I told him that I will strive to make Kumbakonam the best among all corporations in the state. Our leaders said Rahul-ji (Rahul Gandhi) was also happy with my nomination,” he added.

Saravanan, who had studied till Class X, lost both parents at an early age and was brought up by grandparents. His grandfather T Kumarasamy served as a member of the Kumbakonam municipality in 1976. Inspired by his grandfather, Saravanan joined the Congress in 2002 and was soon nominated to the post of ward leader and later as the vice-president of the party’s Kumbakonam unit.

“My grandfather had a kai symbol (the Congress’s hand symbol). I always wanted to carry it in my hand. When I was 22, I met the Thanjavur North Congress Committee leader and said I wanted to join the party. I have been with the party since and have participated in election works and have also got arrested for a couple of agitations. It was leader Loganathan who taught me politics. He invited me to his office in his free time and taught me how to speak to party cadres, other senior leaders, and to the common man.”

K Saravanan with M K Stalin.

Along with his wife Devi and three children, Saravanan lives in a rented house at Thukkampalayam and has been riding the autorickshaw for two decades now. He said he knows every nook and cranny of Kumbakonam which helped him get acquainted with people from all 48 wards in the city. He bought an autorickshaw of his own seven years ago and depends on it for livelihood.

Like several others, the pandemic dealt a severe blow to his income and Saravanan admitted that he was able to file his nomination for the councillor’s post only with the help of ward members.

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“Per day, I get about Rs 200-250. The lockdown completely hit my livelihood. As schools remained closed, I lost those trips too. The people in my area helped me a lot during that time. Even now, they helped me win this poll. I will continue to visit them whenever possible,” he said.

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On being asked about his plans as Mayor, Saravanan said he is currently focused on the completion of underground drainage works, repairing damaged roads and ensuring basic amenities like drinking water supply, street lights and so on.

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