A common rival goes full blast

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The sun is unrelenting, but is outgunned by the intensity of the battle on the ground

Sunscreen lotions, hurried noon breaks and fancy campaign diets featuring veggies and liberal doses of tender coconut water; candidates are lobbing everything in their arsenal to keep the punishing April sun — the common adversary this election season — at bay.

Any hope that the second week of April would usher in cooler weather was dashed when the summer rain failed to show up on time. But the whims of the summer are scarcely proving to be a dampener. Most candidates do not think twice about spending all their waking hours on the road happily canvassing votes. With a healthy respect for the sun, though.

Take for instance Shashi Tharoor, Congress’s Thiruvananthapuram MP who is locked in a tough battle on his third outing. Dr. Tharoor’s day starts at 8 a.m. and winds up by 10 p.m. with only a 45-minute break for lunch around 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. But the former UN Under Secretary General keeps himself hydrated, drinking plenty of tender coconut water while on the campaign trail, an aide said.

No cold water, please

N.K. Premachandran, the United Democratic Front candidate in Kollam, says even the scorching sun can not beat his spirit. “So far there have been no issues, mainly because of this air of enthusiasm. Usually I take a brief break after lunch and after that the campaigning continues till 11 at night. I don’t feel any hardship because of my wholehearted involvement in the campaign,” he says.

Zipping through her constituency, Attingal, Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Shobha Surendran would give anything to pop open a bottle of icy cool water. Easier said than done, as Ms. Surendran is one of her party’s leading speakers. “I don’t drink anything cold as it would affect my voice. Not even butter milk. So I keep sipping hot water in this sizzling weather. I do take salted rice gruel in the mornings,” she says. Ms. Surendran uses sunscreen lotions to protect her skin, but they do not make you invincible, she says. “The sun has given me a deep tan. Initially I used to have an open jeep. Now it has a cover. But many of our workers ride motorcycles, so I’ve asked them to take a break when it gets too hot,” she adds.

Up north, Palakkad is one district where day temperatures have consistently pipped the 40 degree Celsius mark this summer, a scary scenario for candidates and party workers alike. “I try to confine my morning tours to 11.30 a.m., but it scarcely works out that way,” M.B. Rajesh, the Left Democratic Front candidate, said. “I’ve also included more vegetables in my diet and avoid meat. Drinking lots of water is the only way out,” he said. Mr Rajesh has also cut down on his daily cups of tea to just two.

Rest ruled out

K.N. Balagopal, the LDF candidate in Kollam, says his body has adapted to roadshows in blazing sun and non-stop travel these days. When the district reported maximum number of sunburn cases, he was at Punalur, the town which resembled a furnace. “I also got burns in the initial days, but now I am quite accustomed to the weather. Most days, I will be in an open jeep during the noon hours, and taking a break because of the rising temperatures is out of question. Some days I start at 4 a.m. and currently rest is not part of my schedule,” Mr. Balagopal says.

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