By Praveen Paramasivam

(Reuters) – In a small south Indian village more than 8,000 miles (12,900 km) from Washington, residents are closely watching to see if U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris might replace Joe Biden in the upcoming election against Donald Trump.

In 2021, the leafy village of Thulasendrapuram, where Harris’s maternal grandfather was born more than a century ago, celebrated her inauguration with firecrackers, free chocolate, posters and calendars featuring the vice president.

The village’s residents want more this time, given the news coming from the U.S. which they are following on TV and social media.

Harris, born to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father who migrated to the United States to study, is the leading contender to take Biden’s place in the Nov. 5 election race if he were to drop out, sources have said. However, Biden has said he’s “not going anywhere,” and his allies believe he can assuage voters’ and donors’ concerns about his stamina and mental acuity.

“There will be a larger celebration this time as she is expected to contest for president,” said K. Kaliyaperumal, a member of the village committee. He said if she was nominated, the reaction would be like it was for India’s cricket team, whose recent World Cup win sparked a frenzy in the country.

Harris visited Thulasendrapuram when she was five and has recalled walks with her grandfather on the beach of Chennai, located 320 km (200 miles) from the village and where the family later lived. But she hasn’t been back since becoming vice president.

“Residents expected a visit, statement or at least a mention about the village, but that didn’t happen,” said G. Manikandan, a shopkeeper in Thulasendrapuram, where some 2,000 people live.

“Many people hung calendars with her picture outside their homes when she became vice president. They are not so prominent anymore. But it’s likely they’ll now make a comeback.”

While the village may be disappointed it didn’t get a mention, S.V. Ramanan, who runs a temple to the family deity of Harris’ grandfather, was sympathetic, saying her family left Thulasendrapuram in the 1930s.

He said that as an American, Harris understandably might not be aware of the village’s excitement, comparing it to cheering for a horse race where the winning horse “doesn’t understand why you are shouting and why you are clapping”.

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam; Editing by Krishna N. Das and Sonali Paul)

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