By Sushil Kutty
For years, Tom Vaddakan was a fixture in 24, Akbar Road, AICC Headquarters. Like furniture. Then, when new ones came, he was like the old office desk. Unfit around the desktops on wheels of the Internet-savvy Divya Spandana sort; the politically-heavy, close-to-Rahul Gandhi, Randeep Surjewala and Priyanka Chaturvedi-kind. Shifted from main conference hall to anteroom, Tom was not consigned to the attic because of a certain sentimental value attached, Tom Vadakkan left the building the other day and is now a glass-top tea-poy in the BJP Headquarters verandah.
Tom is the sort of guy who acclimatized to Delhi but pined for Kerala, wanting to make a comeback from seaboard to landlocked Parliament. Tom’s departure from the Congress in one word is ‘disgruntled.’ Tom’s ditch got prime-time on Malayalam television channels but the state Congress unit asked, ‘Tom Who, Vadakkan?’ Never mind that Tom’s exit was timed with Congress President Rahul Gandhi in town.
Tom knows, if not all, some of the Congress secrets including Rahul’s itinerary for the next 15 days. Rahul Gandhi in Kerala promised to create a Department of Fisheries the “moment” the Congress unseats Narendra Modi from the Prime Minister’s chair. Tom Vadakkan was not a big fish in the Congress pond and Rahul probably walked past him, eyes unseeing, hundreds of times before Tom realized he was invisible to the Congress President.
Journalists covering Congress from before Y2K will remember Tom Vadakkan. He used to help with info on whether Ghulam Nabi Azad or Oscar Fernandes was in the building or not. But, unlike Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi ‘saw’ Tom. Maybe because Tom is a fellow Christian. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad believes Vadakkan’s “Roman Catholic” status makes him an asset. But is Tom Roman Catholic or Syrian Christian?
Tom Vadakkan yearns to be an MP. In 2009, he asked for a Congress ticket from Thrissur but was refused. He could have even won. The Congress is not a minnow in the backwaters. But Congress leaders of Kerala never counted Tom as one of their own. Many of them now dismiss his departure with “tea-boy has gone to join Chaiwala to serve stale tea.”
Malayalam media are not so dismissive. They see in Tom’s choice of new party a “trend”. There has been an increase in migration from the Congress to BJP in recent days – in Maharashtra, and in Gujarat. Congress MLAs, MPs and sons of Congress bigwigs donning saffron. The Congress says it’s normal, poll-eve shift of allegiance by politicians not in the good books of the high-command; those wanting to move with bag and baggage to greener pastures, nothing to lose sleep over. All 20 Gujarat Congress MLAs who left the party lost in the assembly elections!
The BJP is not doing cartwheels but it’s in a position to accommodate in states where it’s building a base. Like in Kerala and Odisha. Tom might get a Kerala nomination. There are 20 seats and not enough known local names to make a splash in national media. Tom Vadakkan is familiar to the Rajdeep and Arnab sorts. It will be a miracle if he wins. But, but what the hell, better a Vadakkan than a “Pillai” or “Nair.” At least, on May 23, English TV channels will scroll “Tom Vadakkan Trailing…”
The name ‘Tom Vadakkan’ makes a bigger connect with the national media. Otherwise, Trinamool’s Arjun Singh, ditching Mamata Banerjee to stand alongside BJP’s Kailash Vijayvargiya, is a bigger catch – a sitting Trinamool MP going the Mukul Roy way. The media gave Arjun only passing mention, less than what Sujay Vakil, the son of a Maharashtra Congress top-shot got. Another son, this one that of an Uttarakhand BJP ex-Chief Minister, is joining the Congress in Uttarakhand.
Normal election-eve migration. Really? The BJP would like to believe otherwise. The BJP says Congress leaders and Congress workers are quitting the Congress in droves because the intelligent among them have seen the writing on the wall. It happened in Assam and Tripura. And, it’s happening in Odisha, West Bengal and Kerala. Also, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
In Kerala, the party gloating at the “trend” the most is the CPM. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s party believes more Congress leaders will desert to the BJP because Congress and BJP are interchangeable, flip sides of the same rupee! The CPM forgets that Union Tourism Minister Alphonse Kannanthanam was Left MLA before he joined the BJP. Maybe, Tom Vadakkan is a tea-poy in the BJP verandah, but, it seems, the BJP wants to get hold of a cabinet with many bureaus from the Congress’s furniture store. (IPA Service)