A day in the life of A Nagaraj (67)
An election ticket aspirant
Routine: No word from Delhi on his fate yet,he waits confidently,while assuaging protesting leaders,visiting his constituency and the party office often,and keeping energy up with yoga
It is 1.15 pm on a Thursday afternoon. An hour earlier,a Congress ticket aspirants supporter had died of a heart attack after his mentors candidature was reportedly rejected. Last week,a ticket aspirants supporter attempted self-immolation outside the Congress office over a rejection. Now,there are reports that a fresh wave of protests from Hiruyur is coming to the Congress office.
Standing outside the Congress partys headquarters in Bangalore,the calm face of 67-year-old A Nagaraj,an aspirant for a Congress ticket to contest the May 5 Karnataka Assembly elections,belies the tension in the air.
When a reporter asks Nagaraj,a veteran politician who is among a handful of Congress leaders trying to mollify the protesters,why he does not have the jitters,Nagaraj gets philosophical. Im a mature man when it comes to getting election tickets. I have contested Assembly elections seven times. I know how to get a ticket. If I get a ticket,it is good for the Congress and if I dont,it is good for me. After all,elections are costly affairs.
With all the buzz about the Congress making a possible comeback in Karnataka,its offices in Bangalore and New Delhi have,over the last few weeks,turned into hives of political activity. Ticket aspirants have been making a beeline to press their individual cases to the leadership,Congress leaders have been shuttling between Bangalore and Delhi and protesters have taken out processions. On Friday,the Congress released its first list.
Nagaraj,three-time MLA and leader of the Kolar District Congress for 18 yearshe left the party briefly to join the JD(S)appears confident.
Despite powerful politicians pushing their candidates for the Malur constituencylocated about 80 km from Bangalore,in Kolar districtNagaraj says he is not worried about getting a ticket from there. Malur didnt figure in the partys first list.
A member of the mostly Telugu-speaking backward caste Balija community,Nagaraj missed out on the application for a ticket when these were being distributed in Bangalore. He,however,points to a missed call from one of Rahul Gandhis secretaries on his phone to indicate that he is sought by the Congress to contest the elections.
It was when the Congress election screening committee began its exercise of identifying candidates that I got a call. I was told that Rahul Gandhi had conducted a survey of Malur and I was chosen as the candidate most likely to win. The selection of candidates this time has been scientific. They are not blindly accepting recommendations. As far as possible,they are trying to identify a winning candidate, says Nagaraj.
I come to the party office whenever I can. I came today to find out the latest regarding announcement of candidates, Nagaraj says.
He has been out of power for 10 years now but,he feels,this will not be a deterrent in attracting votes if he gets a ticket. I have maintained my relationship with Malur. I spend a few hours every day sorting out their problems. I dont have a caste base but being a good politician is not about caste or money,its about commitment,knowledge and heart, he says.
The main problem he hopes to address is that of drinking water in the dry Kolar region. Until we have a permanent solution for this,it is going to be difficult for politicians to thrive in the region.
Money is also a big concern. Most of the voters dont know the value of their votes. Theyll vote even for a meagre amount. Thats the problem. The BJP,in its time,has earned a lot of money and theyre banking on money in these polls, says Nagaraj.
Nagaraj,a yoga practitioner,believes politicians need to be healthy to do public service. You may have the energy to work for the people but it is of no use if its short-lived, he says as he waits patiently for his chance.