If there was one constituency in Ernakulam district which had the focus of the whole state when the results of the Assembly elections came out on Sunday, it was Kunnathunad. Kunnathunad is the home turf of Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) wing of a Kerala corporate company, which contested in the Kerala Assembly elections to make history. However, the outfit which once created history by contesting and winning from a Kerala local body, this time failed to make inroads. Twenty 20 lost in all the eight Assembly constituencies in Ernakulam district it contested from, including Kunnathunad, considered their stronghold.
Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20 is the CSR wing of Ernakulam based Anna-Kitex group of companies. The outfit entered the political fray for the first time in 2015, months after the CSR wing launched crowd puller welfare measures in Kizhakkambalam gram panchayat, located in the Kunnathunad constituency. And when the outfit set its foot in the local body polls, they easily won there too.
The group became popular across the state and beyond, due to their popular projects in the panchayat including â€˜Bakshya surakshaâ€™ supermarket, where those affiliated to Twenty 20 get products at subsidised rates; and Godâ€™s Villa housing project, that gave a makeover to more than 30 dilapidated houses in a housing colony. The CSR wing has also been famous for other initiatives like medical treatment for poor and other housing projects.
Though the group had fielded candidates in eight constituencies -- Kunnathunad, Muvattupuzha, Perumbavoor, Kothamangalam, Vypeen, Thrikkakara, Kochi and Ernakulam -- all eyes were on Kunnathunad on Sunday, as the outfit had been witnessing a growing influence in the region, winning four out of the eight local bodies in the constituency.
Kunnathunad Assembly constituency had been the stronghold of Congress led United Democratic Front (UDF). UDFâ€™s VP Sajeendhran had won from the constituency since the past two terms. While the Twenty 20â€™s presence this term was considered crucial by both sitting UDF and CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF), LDFâ€™s PV Sreenijin pushed UDF back, winning with a margin of 2,715 votes. While Sreenijin won from the constituency securing 52,351 votes, UDFâ€™s VP Sajeendhran came second with 49,636 votes. Twenty 20â€™s candidate Sujith P Surendran managed to secure 42,701 votes. It came ahead of BJP-led National Democratic Allianceâ€™s Renu Suresh, who only secured 7,218 votes.
Twenty also came third in Kothamangalam and Kochi constituencies. But in Perumbavoor, Thrikkakara, Ernakulam, Muvattupuzha and Vypeen, the candidates of Twenty 20, trailed further behind.
What didn't work for Twenty 20
In the local body polls held in November 2020, the outfit contested and came to power in four gram panchayats, including Kizhakkambalam, Aikkaranadu, Kunnathunad and Mazhuvanoor -- expanding its bastion from Kizhakkambalam panchayat alone, giving them more confidence to contest in the Assembly polls which were just months away.
Though there was strong speculation that the outfit might manage to win in Kunnathunad constituency, with the popularity of its welfare schemes, there were also observations in the months leading to elections, that the group has not shown enough performance to win an Assembly seat.
One of the reasons for this could be what the outfit kept on plate for people as its poll promise.
In the campaigns of the Assembly election also, the team, led by its Chief Coordinator Sabu M Jacob, had only mooted one main poll promise - 'Kizhakkambalam model development.'
Though the group has brought a list of popular welfare measures including subsidised supermarket and financial aid programmes for people in the panchayat, there were criticisms that the outfit which is contesting in Assembly polls, had nothing to say about many pressing political issues in the state.
Notably, a section of political observers had earlier told TNM that this would come as a backlash for the Twenty 20. Experts had also opined that while the local development holds more importance in local body polls, people tend to give more significance to political issues in the state, when it comes to Assembly polls. With the results now being out, it could be inferred that the criticisms were valid.
Notably, while Twenty 20 had been winning accolades for their welfare measures, allegations of the autocratic ways were also widely discussed during the Assembly polls, including denying welfare measures to people supporting other political parties.
The CSR wing was started by the Anna-Kitex group in 2015, months after protests against alleged pollution of Kitex Garments Limited gained traction. The advent of CSR wing was however a gamechanger for the company, with the voice against pollution losing its strength.