What do Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi's nomination papers have in common? Rouf Basha's signature.

The stamp paper vendor in Mylapore who is Jayalalithaas lucky charm
news TN 2016 Friday, April 29, 2016 - 19:03

From a distance, Rouf Basha looks boxed in by the walls of his tiny office, sandwiched between his living quarters. As his clients flow in, the sombre green paint peels off the walls, as if marking the 20 years of his life as a stamp paper vendor. He thrusts open his ledger to reveal lines of scribble fighting for space on the brown tinted pages. “I hear so many names everyday, almost over 200, and all of them sometimes look the same to me when I write them down,” he says, as he notices another client and sits him down. 

Over the past two days, Rouf Basha’s clients have been all praise for him after he shot to fame for having sold stamp papers that DMK President M. Karunanidhi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa filed their affidavits with.

Jayalalithaa’s representative insisted that he write her name as he has over the past three elections. “Lucky charm? I don’t know,” he dismisses smilingly.  “On Muhurtham naal, don’t even think about getting a seat in his office, there’s a mad rush,” one of his trusted clients warn me. He’s come to Rouf Basha’s shop for over 10 years. His voice bellows when I speak of his nemesis, not a competing stamp vendor, but a technology that has hampered his business. “That e-stamp paper has put us all out of business.” But his steady stream of clients who arrive armed with e-stamp papers, still come to see Basha for a blessing. "His signature means that everything will go smoothly," his client says. 

Rouf Basha's signature, a stamp of luck

“I see men making long journeys to see me,” Basha says. In the past half an hour, the diversity of clients is striking - a scrawny man applying for a home loan, a woman coyly making her way in to change her religion from Hindu to Muslim so she can marry her beau, and a lawyer representing a political candidate to get his stamp paper. “Dayanidhi Maran, MK Stalin, they’ve also been getting their papers from me for a long time,” he remarks, jaded by his lawyer client’s gasps. Leafing through a pack of visiting cards, he hands one, only hoping that his trade will not turn obsolete by the time the next election arrives.

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