Episode 107: Politics In A Pandemic

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist based in Chennai. Two nights a week on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I’m considering this question — what does political life look like in a pandemic?

It’s Day 326 of the novel coronavirus epidemic in India, and we are reporting 10,054,946 confirmed cases with 145,804 deaths. One of the things that I’ve been thinking about, especially as more states gear up for elections next year, is how political life in India has changed in the pandemic. I watch videos of elected representatives meeting their constituents, and I see the crowds of people there to see them, touch them, talk to them, and I wonder how politicians balance the very Indian need to connect intimately with people with their own safety considerations.

PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan is an MLA who represents Madurai Central legislative constituency in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. I should start with two caveats. One, if you’re looking for a hard-hitting political interview, this is not it. Mr. Thiagarajan is someone I know a little bit, and that’s why I asked if he’d give me into the changes into his political life now. Secondly, Mr. Thiagarajan is not your average MLA — he comes from a political family well known to the state, and studied and worked in investment banking for 30 years in the US and Singapore before moving back to Madurai before the last election in 2016. He is also heads the DMK’s IT Wing. But for many of these very reasons, he offers a fascinating insight into the incredible change that the pandemic has forced on electoral campaigning.

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For me, this was an absolutely eye-opening insight into the world of electoral politics and how the pandemic has changed it, and I want to thank PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan for giving me his time and his candid perspective. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the risks that politicians are enduring in this time, something we may not always acknowledge or appreciate.

Thank you for listening. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. On the next episode — a new question.

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I am a data journalist based in Chennai, India.

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