He is the first person from Dakshina Kannada district to secure a first rank in the standard 10 examination. He then went on to secure a first rank in his pre-university examination from Mysore and also a first rank in BSc (Hons) from Bangalore University. He obtained his MSc (Physics/Electronics) from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (1974). He has also obtained an MA in Physics, an MA in Maths and a PhD in Physics from the University of Rochester, New York. Apart from this, he has had his biography in Who's Who in Frontiers of Science and Technology, Who's Who in the World and American Men and Women of Science. He also has to his credit four patents (related to optical amplifiers) and over 75 refereed publications.
Dr Tirumala Raya Halemane who quit the Rutgers University at Piscataway in New Jersey, has now returned to his home town in Mangalore after 37 years and is all set for general elections, 2009. He is contesting as an independent candidate from the newly-formed Dakshin Kannada constituency (earlier Mangalore).
In this interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Dr Halemane spoke about his political aspirations and also as to how he planned to face the elections from the communally-charged constituency.
What the reasons for you to join politics?
I have worked for the Indian community at New Jersey. Then I thought that it was time for me to offer something to my motherland and hence decided to come back. On one of my visits to the deputy commissioner's office, I saw a board that read, "It is your holy duty to vote." This set me thinking and today I feel that not only is it a person's holy duty to vote, but it should be his holy duty to contest the elections.
From New Jersey to Mangalore is quite a ride. How have people accepted your candidature?
Well, I was laughed at, at first. But now things seem to have changed. People are taking me seriously and know now that I want to effect a change in the system. The common man needs a change and I sensed that people are looking for an independent candidate. Now I am confident that democracy can work in Mangalore.
What style of campaigning have you adopted and what about the money for the campaign?
The biggest aspect is publicity which independent candidates never get. The BJP and the Congress are always in the news, no matter what they do. I have decided to adopt a personal style of campaign. I meet with people at bus stops and other public places. I have a limited amount of money. However I will prove to everyone this time that a candidate does not need to spend a lot of money in order to contest the elections.
Mangalore has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. What do you plan for this communal hotbed which is filled with hate politics?
First and foremost, I love this place since it is my home town. There are various issues such as communal harmony and safety of women which need to be addressed immediately. We need to tell the people that religion comes later and it is humanity first. However, I must add here that by and large the people of Mangalore are peace-loving and it is only a small set of people who are creating problems here. More importantly there is also this sense of insecurity among the Hindus and it is important to tell them that the people of other religions are not there to get at them.
Is it easy being an independent candidate? Was there pressure for you to withdraw and how have other political parties reacted?
When I set out campaigning, there are two extremes that I noticed. Either the people are extremely supportive while there are others who ask why am I contesting in the first place. No, political parties have not harassed me neither have they threatened me. However the workers of some parties have told me directly that I should not be contesting since I may split up the votes. However, I am really not considered about all this and let me assure that even if there is pressure and they want me to withdraw my candidature, I will not do so.