Meet 21-year-old Arya Rajendran, the new Mayor of Thiruvananthapuram
On Sunday morning, Anavoor Nagappan, the district secretary of the CPI(M) in Thiruvananthapuram, finally made it official – 21-year-old Arya Rajendran is indeed going to be the Mayor of the City Corporation, the youngest to take the chair. For two days now, word has been going around that she’ll be Mayor with many media stories getting written in a short time. But Arya, like her party members, had desisted from giving comment on an ‘assumption’. She’d rather wait, she told dozens of reporters.
A day earlier, Arya walked through the ward where she had just won the local body polls from – Mudavanmugal in Thiruvananthapuram, famous for once housing Mohanlal and his parents. The actor was one of the many to call and congratulate young Arya.
Men and women and little children waited outside their houses, and in a street in Kunjalamoodu, party members stood to receive Arya on Saturday evening. “Both her parents have been party members for long. Her father is an electrician and her mother an LIC agent,” says a member of the party, holding the red flag of the CPI(M).
A little after 5pm on Saturday, Arya came riding pillion with her father, the man who had held her hands and took her to party programmes when she was a child. “I am told I have been going for party programmes with my father ever since I was a little child, but my first memories are of being involved with the Balasangam – the children’s organisation affiliated to the CPI(M) – from the time I was a class V student,” says Arya, who is now doing her B.Sc. at All Saints College.
It was not simply following on the footsteps of her parents. They would have triggered her entry into politics but the path she chose had been out of her conviction. “I knew that Left was the correct path to be in,” she says.
She got active with work of the Balasangam, becoming its state president. In college she became a worker of the Students Federation of India (SFI) – CPI(M)’ student party. She is now a state committee member of the SFI and a CPI(M) member of the Kesavadev Road branch. “The organisational experience and the work for it has proved very useful during the election campaign. I could meet people and communicate our ideas very clearly,” Arya says.
That bit of clarity and confidence has been visible since Friday afternoon when television channels began telecasting her bytes and interviews, on her name being floated as the city Mayor. Arya did not falter with her answers. They were quick, clear and intelligent. Despite the number of times she was asked about her Mayor plans, she did not assume an air of the chosen one.
Brows were raised, voices of criticism were let out when a councillor so young was proposed as Mayor of the largest corporation in Kerala. But Arya spoke without the jitters of a first timer or the nervousness of a newbie. She spoke of her plans for her ward Mudavanmugal, which she knew would matter for the rest of the city as well.
“Waste management – that’s the first and foremost focus for my ward as well as the rest of the city. Also importantly, setting up a primary health centre (PHC) in Mudavanmugal. Especially in the times of COVID-19 it is important that there is a PHC at ward level. Many people are reluctant to go to hospitals, especially those with other diseases and those with children. So a PHC that’s open for 24 hours and accessible for everyone is very important to have. There will also be programmes focused on youth, on women and on students,” Arya says.
She does not hesitate when media persons, nearly all of them, ask her to name a role model.
“When it is a party like the LDF (Left Democratic Front) there will be many people to be cited as models – it is a party of cadres. Like our respected Chief Minister who has proven to be a crisis manager during these difficult times, and the influence he’s had on the common man. It is very important to be a leader who stands with the people at times of crisis,” she says without mincing words.