I am not unlettered: Radhika Selvi

By Arvind Padmanabhan


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New Delhi : With her three-year-old son watching Tom and Jerry cartoons and under the benign gaze of her proud parents, 31-year-old Radhika Selvi, who took oath Friday as minister of state for home, is wary of being drawn into the politics of how she made it to the high office.

"I would like to study my ministry, the issues involved. Give me a week and I'll answer whatever you want to ask," she says, looking fondly at the bouquets that have poured in by the dozens at her South Avenue MP's flat.

Persistent requests to share some thoughts on her new assignment meet the same replies. "I am extremely sorry. I am not avoiding the media. I would rather make some meaningful remarks," she tells IANS, switching between Tamil and English.

Nevertheless, Selvi seeks to clarify that she is not unlettered, as the media in Tamil Nadu has made her out to be. Even though the Lok Sabha web site lists her as a matriculate, she says she has pursued a bachelor's in English literature.

"I was in the final year of English literature, when the marriage proposal came. I could not take the exams," she says, referring to her wedding with Venkatesha Panniyar, who was shot dead in an encounter with the police in 2003, barely two years after her marriage and when she was pregnant with her only child.

But the new job is definitely another reward from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to serve the people even better, she says as she leaves for Chennai to meet Kalaignar, or literary giant, as the DMK chief is often called.

"I sought Kalaignar's blessings before I was sworn in and as I prepare to take charge of my new role in the government, I am going to do that again. I am also visiting my constituency," says Selvi, elected from Tiruchandur.

But she goes silent when asked if she will be meeting Karunanidhi's wife Rajathi Ammal, who is understood to be instrumental in securing her the party's ticket for Lok Sabha election first and then in her current elevation to the minister's office.

"I have no answers for these questions," she replies after some thought, adding she is not ready yet for interviews as it is barely 24 hours since she was made minister.

"Give me a week and I shall speak to you on my priorities," Selvi says under the watchful but obviously delighted eyes of her parents – Mohan Arumugam and Thanga Pushpam, even as her son Rakshan Achintya is busy watching Tom and Jerry on TV.

As the impromptu interview drags on, her mother ushers her in to remind her that her flight to Chennai is 90 minutes away. "Give me your card. You can call me next week and we will do the interview," she says apologetically.