Freshly minted BJP member and 'metro man' E Sreedharan has explained why he joined politics just before the election to the Kerala legislative assembly. He greeted Home Minister Amit Shah in Kerala today at an election campaign.
"Many have asked me why I am entering politics at 88. My answer is I have worked on many projects for the country for 67 years. At this age too, I have confidence, strength and energy to work. If I can do anything for Kerala, let it be so. It's that desire alone that made me join BJP," Mr Sreedharan said today.
In visuals, Mr Sreedharan is seen approaching Mr Shah to greet with a shawl. However, at the last moment, the Home Minister takes the shawl from Mr Sreedharan and puts it on the retired engineer in what was symbolically seen as Mr Sreedharan's importance for the BJP.
During Mr Shah's speech, Mr Sreedharan found a special mention. "He started as an engineer, professor, and completed many projects of national importance professionally, in a time-bound and transparent manner," Mr Shah said.
"At my age I feel sometimes that it's been enough. But looking at you, I salute you, that your enthusiasm for serving the nation is as much as it was when you were young. The man who has built infrastructure has chosen BJP for nation-building. And we are very happy for this," Mr Shah said.
Mr Sreedharan first made headlines while restoring the historic Pamban bridge in Tamil Nadu, the link between the island Rameshwaram and the mainland, after it was damaged by a cyclone. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008. The retired engineer is famous for spearheading the Delhi Metro project.
Mr Sreedharan's entry into electoral politics has been played down by the BJP's rivals in Kerala. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he thought the 'metro man' would have a "minimal impact".
"I would have welcomed E Sreedharan in politics, had he not chosen a party that stands for communalism," said MA Baby, CPI(M) leader.
The BJP has just one MLA in the 140-strong Kerala legislative assembly, up from zero in 2011, but is hopeful that Mr Sreedharan's charisma and appeal will rub off on the party's fortunes.
Kerala will vote in a single phase on April 6 with results due May 2.