The happiest biggest loser

Indian shop owner Mr K. Padmarajan doesn't feel like a loser.

He sees much to celebrate in the 158 times he has stood for public office and failed.

Starting out 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 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 told AFP.

He lost. And then lost again and again. Over 26 years, he has competed hopelessly for local assembly seats and parliament, often standing against big names such as prime ministers A. B. Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh.

In all, he says, he has forfeited 1.2 million rupees (S$25,000) 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 along with his 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.

He added: "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."

In the latest Indian election, he is contesting from Vadodara, in the western state of Gujarat, the constituency of election frontrunner Narendra Modi. He said: "I always chose to contest against the newsmakers. At the moment, if there's one VIP who's making all the headlines, it's Mr Narendra Modi."

He says he will continue as an independent and clearly enjoys the attention because of his entry in Indian record books.

This article was published on May 1 in The New Paper.

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