THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The only sounds that could be heard at the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) headquarters early on Friday morning were those of vehicles whizzing past on the road outside. Over these the 30-odd people gathered in the library - the majority mediapersons and the rest, a handful of party workers - strained to hear the results of the vote counting being announced live on news channels.
Silence continued to dominate, broken only by the rushing of cameramen towards the gates to greet the occasional leader who wandered in. KPCC president V M Sudheeran, Varkala Kahar, Rajmohan Unnithan, M M Hassan, Pandalam Sudhakaran, T Saratchandra Prasad and Deputy Speaker N Sakthan were among those who turned up during the course of the morning to await the results, closeted in Sudheeran’s office.
Outside in the library, other party workers and mediapersons were gathered, their attention arrested by the television. Nails were chewed, fingers tapped ceaselessly against knees, fists clenched around cellphones that rarely stopped ringing and receiving messages.
Small talk seemed entirely forgotten. That the UDF seemed to be leading in at least 11 of the 20 constituencies didn’t seem a cause to celebrate; it looked like Thiruvananthapuram would be going to the BJP. O Rajagopal’s lead had been steadily climbing all morning, crossing 14,000 at one point.
Then that lead fell, almost in one swoop, down to three figures. Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor began to lead as the counting of votes progressed. His lead, around 11.20 am, was over a 1,000 votes. It was greeted by a smattering of applause that was as transient as the margin of lead. Five minutes later Tharoor’s lead margin had fallen to 492. Then again it touched 1,603, up to 3,684, and then 4,842.
Nobody dared to cheer or even put on a smile that lasted over two seconds. With good reason - during the last 10 per cent of vote counting, Tharoor’s lead went down again to 2,236, now 1,844, then 514, again 226 till finally Rajagopal led again, for just a moment, by 48 votes.
The younger party workers, however, were not so cautious. When Tharoor’s lead again began to climb by the thousands, their cheers grew louder till when it touched 7,003, when his victory was not even decided and with 5 per cent of the votes yet to be counted, they took their celebration out on to the road.
Regardless of whether the commuters wanted a part in their joy or not, the enthusiastic party workers were determined to share it. Impatient honks therefore were rewarded with sweets.
The celebrations were stopped for a while, when it became apparent that the counting was not yet over and that there was still scope for a complete turnaround in results. And when Tharoor’s victory was finally announced, the cheering began again, with a vengeance.