Election results don’t matter to India’s ‘biggest loser’ K. Padmarajan
Indian shop owner K. Padmarajan doesn't feel like a loser. In fact, he sees much to celebrate in having stood 158 times for public office and failed on every occasion.
Starting in 1988, he had a point to prove - to those who laughed at the ambitions of a man who repaired tyres for a living and to the cynics who scorned Indian democracy with all its flaws and inefficiencies.
"Back then, I owned a cycle puncture repair shop and a thought struck me that I, an ordinary man with an ordinary income and no special status in society, could contest the elections," he said.
He lost. And then lost again. And again. Over 26 years, he has competed for local assembly seats and parliament, often standing against big names such as prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh.
In all, he says he has forfeited 1.2 million rupees (HK$153,700) in deposits tendered in his lonely pursuit, in the process earning a place in the Limca Book of Records, the national repository of India's eccentric record-making.
"I have never contested an election to win and the results just don't matter to me," laughs the entrepreneur whose tyre shop has flourished alongside his other business, a homeopathic medical practice.
His best result came in 2011 when he stood for an assembly seat in his home constituency of Mettur in southern Tamil Nadu state. He won 6,273 votes, raising the prospect that one day he could be victorious.
"I'm just someone who is very keen on getting people to participate in the electoral process and cast their vote and this is just my means of generating awareness on the same," he said.
Yesterday, he was standing in Vadodara, the constituency of election front runner Narendra Modi in western Gujarat state, which went to the polls in the latest stage of the country's mammoth election.
"I always chose to contest against the newsmakers. At the moment, if there's one VIP who's making all the headlines, it's Narendra Modi," Padmarajan said.
"Indian democracy is alive and well and very healthy," said Jagdeep Chhokar from the Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-profit group that analyses election candidates.
"Every Indian without exception is proud of India being a democracy. Indians are very good and even smug that we are a democracy and China is not."