CHENNAI/PUDUKKOTTAI/MADURAI: On Sunday, a tiny village in Pudukottai erupted in cheers, burst crackers and distributed sweets to celebrate the victory of one of its sons in a land far off. ‘Captain’ R Tamil Selvan, son of a farmer couple from there, won the Maharashtra Assembly election from Sion Koliwada in Mumbai, results of which were declared on Sunday.
Known by the nickname ‘Captain’ among his supporters, Selvan, a 58-year-old corporator of the BJP, is the first Tamil to be win to a seat in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly after nearly two-and-a-half decades. He defeated his nearest rival and sitting Congress MLA Jagannath Shetty by a margin of 3,738 votes.
Eldest of six children of a farmer couple, Ramayya Rangiyar (82) and Thangam (73) of Pilaviduthi village near Karambakudi in Pudukottai, Selvan had landed in the maximum city way back in 1978 while attempting to go abroad in search of a job. However, he made Mumbai his home, which gave him a life, livelihood and even the nickname ‘captain’.
He was one of the two Tamil corporators to win the local body polls to Mumbai Corporation three years ago. The election to the Assembly, he told Express, is only a natural progression. He has also been the general secretary of the urban unit of the party.
Sion Koliwada constituency that abutts Dharawi has a significant South Indian population, though Selvan maintained that his victory was due to the support from all communities.
“The situation (North-South divide) is different from what it was a couple of decades ago. Now Tamils are there everywhere, in every party. I won by getting the votes of everyone, be it Tamil, Gujarati or Rajasthani,” he said over the phone from Mumbai, even as celebrations were on.
He was earlier in the news during the Mumbai attacks in 2008. A railway contractor, Selvan was at the CST, Mumbai, when armed terrorists stormed the city. “I was there at the terminus when the shots were fired. Along with my team, we managed to drag away about 35 injured persons to safety and then ferried them to St George Hospital nearby on pullcarts used on railway platforms,” he recalled.
His efforts that saved several lives was recognised by the then Maharashtra governor.
His father Ramayya is a Communist party supporter, while his brothers Mohan and Jeevanadam are AIADMK members, he said. He had visited his native place two months ago to offer prayers at the Murugan temple in Palani.
“When he went to Mumbai, he struggled initially without knowing the language or anyone to help. Later, he did jobs like railway parcel service contractor and building contractor at Central Public Works Department,” said his younger brother R Nehru, a senior police official now serving at Madurai.
The last Tamil to win an Assembly election in Maharashtra was V Subramanian of the Congress who was an MLA from 1980-90.