Meet ‘Best’ Ramasamy from Tirupur, Tamil Nadu’s new political entrepreneur

Here's a Tamil politician who wants to separate the state's politics from its Siamese twin — cinema. As young, ageing and ageless artistes march into the campaign space from Chennai's film studios in a seemingly endless procession — Vijaya Kanth is Kollywood's big contribution to this election — 'Best' Ramasamy has decided that enough is enough.

"We've had enough of this," says the first-time contestant from Pollachi. "For 42 years these film fellows have ruled the state, from screenwriter Karunanidhi to actors MGR and Jayalalithaa. All 'acting' CMs, who can only function on film sets. The reality is very different."

Ramasamy heads the Kongu Naadu Munnetra Peravai, a new sub-regional party focussed on 12 parliamentary constituencies around Coimbatore. This region — traditionally known as Kongu Naadu — is where Ramasamy comes from, and knows best. The Kongu Naadu Munnetra Peravai will lobby for Kongu Naadu's development.

A more tangible sub-sub reality is the Gounder community Ramasamy represents, all of 14 million voters. Is that enough of a vote bank that could tilt or spoil so that he can bargain in the next assembly polls?

"No," he says. "We are out to win — my seat, 101% and at least two more, 99%. And in the hung parliament we'll support whoever meets our demands for the region."

Ramasamy sees his three-month-old party as more regional than community-based. All you hear from his followers though, are success stories of local Gounder boys and girls. One is with Microsoft, another is working for NASA, yet another was part of the Chandrayaan team. The farm-owning Gounders are aspiring enough to seek education and enterprising enough to get into industry.

Ramasamy himself is an early Tirupur success. Coming from the tiny village of Velayudhapalayam, with a population of 250, "not enough to fill an aeroplane", Ramasamy started the 'Best Knitting Company' in Tirupur with a capital of Rs 5,000. The year was 1967, and Ramasamy was a 22-year-old with little schooling. Now, his turnover is Rs 350 crore, and declared assets Rs 49 crore. His partymen speak fondly of his other achievements: "He has picked up five languages and you can hear him in Hindi in parliament."

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