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Serial ‘election losers’: Independents who refuse to call it quits

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NEW DELHI, April 4: In election season when candidates desperately push for a win, they wear their defeat as a badge of honour. A bunch of tenacious Independents have developed stakes in losing polls and do it all to ensure it happens – from appealing to people to not vote for them to flaunting the unsuccessful tag.

Like Tamil Nadu’s K Padmarajan, who proudly calls himself the “Election King” and might be the only candidate in the election fray who urges people to not choose him just so he can retain his tag of being the “most unsuccessful candidate”, a feat also registered in the Limca Book of Records.

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The 65-year-old tyre repair shop owner also finds pride in his entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for candidate with most contested elections. He claims to have lost Rs 80 lakh so far in security deposits which gets forfeited every time he loses an election besides expenses for filing nomination amid fanfare.

Gearing up for his 239th attempt, Padmarajan has filed his nomination for the 18th Lok Sabha elections from Thrissur in Kerala and Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu.

“I began fighting elections in 1988 from my home town of Mettur, located in Tamil Nadu. I have contested 238 elections so far including against former prime ministers Atal Bihar Vajpayee, P V Narsimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. This will be my 239th attempt. I pick a unique battle every time,” he told PTI.

Asked about his campaign plans, Padmarajan said, “I ask people to not vote for me, I don’t want the votes but I want to continue to hold the tag of most unsuccessful candidate. I don’t campaign but when I go for filing nomination, I do that in a grand way.”

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From former chief ministers like Jayalalitha, M Karunanidhi, YSR Reddy and AK Antony to filmstars Hema Malini and Vijayakanth — the list of bigwigs against whom Padmarajan has contested is long.

Indore’s Parmanand Tolani is taking forward his father’s legacy who fought elections as independent candidate for three decades.

“My father passed away in 1988 and I am taking forward his legacy. I have contested 18 elections so far including eight Lok Sabha and eight Vidhan Sabha. I will be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls too,” 65-year-old Tolani told PTI.

“My father’s wish was that we do not have to stop the trend till someone from the family gets elected. If I am not able to do it in my lifetime, my two daughters will carry forward the baton,” said Tolani, who is a property broker.

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Vijay Prakash Kodekar from Pune, a retired staffer from state electricity board, has a different agenda behind contesting elections as independent candidate — advocating zero budget poll campaigns.

He can be seen pushing a steel cart on wheels in streets of Latur, where he is planning to contest the Lok Sabha polls. A flex board on the cart says “Main bhi Pradhanmantri”.

“The message why cannot any poor individual be the Prime Minister of the country. Why this exorbitant expenditure by parties on election campaigns? Polls can be fought on zero budget and the money can be utilised for public welfare,” said 78-year-old Kodekar, who campaigns wearing a white dhoti.

Having contested 24 elections so far, Kodekar uses a different name for different elections.

“Some elections I have contested using the name Vijay, some with ‘Rashtrapati’ and some with the name ‘Znyosho’ — as I am a disciple of Osho. I complete the name change formalities and then I contest the polls using the new name,” he said.

Hyderabad techie Ravinder Uppula, uses different campaign strategies for each Lok Sabha election he fights. In 2014 — it was anti-corruption march and in 2019 it was a liquid only fast.

“I promise during my campaign that if I get elected, I will get a lie detector test done every 100 days so public who votes for me doesn’t feel cheated. That is how our politicians should do as well to weed out corruption,” he said.

Uppula, however, is disappointed with the poll campaign expenses.

“It should not be an expensive deal to canvass in this country, an agenda and the right promise should be enough rather than the poll fray leaving the voters with no choice except voting for a smaller thief or a bigger thief,” he added.

The strange obsession of the independent candidates has also been featured in the book “The Power of The Ballot: Travail and Triumph in the Elections”. Sharing the saga of some of the independent candidates’ stint at the elections, the book decodes “why do some people contest every time knowing they will lose?”

Kaka Joginder Singh, also known as “Dhartipakad”, was a textile-shop owner who contested and lost over 300 elections. He died in 1998. In elections, he always contested independently, and always lost his security deposits.

He earned the nickname Dhartipakad after several unsuccessful runs for the post of the President of India. The year with the greatest yield for him was during the tenth presidential elections in 1992 in which he earned fourth place in the polling with 1,135 votes, losing to Shankar Dayal Sharma; it was his best performance. He also contested elections from 14 states of India in the 1990s, mostly for state assemblies. Singh died in 1998.

Long before Narendra Modi chose Varanasi as an election destination, the city had Narendra Nath Dubey “Adig”. Often referred to as Kashi’s Dhartipakad, he has been fighting every election as an independent candidate since 1984, losing his security deposit each time. He passed away in 2022. (PTI)





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