In the Palluruthy neighbourhood of West Kochi, an election rally of the Congress, complete with blaring loudspeakers, giant cutouts of their candidate and poster campaigns, is taking place in full swing. Amid back-to-back campaigns, TNM catches up with Hibi Eden, who is giving up his MLA position to become a parliamentarian representing his home district of Ernakulam.
"These elections are about protecting the secular fabric of our country. I don't have any promises to make, but I will explain to the people why it is necessary to elect the Congress and the UDF to power," he said when asked what his promises to the people of his district are.
The son of two-time Congress MP George Eden who also got elected from Ernakulam, Hibi is no outsider to politics. However, when questioned about nepotism allegations, he emphasised that he had never been accused of such a thing.
"My dad passed away while I was doing my post graduation. After that, I became KSU's (student wing of the Congress in Kerala) district president, then state president, then All India President of the National Students Union of India (Student wing of the INC in the country and then an MLA. I never contested right after my father's death. You can become a leader once by using another person's name, but not the second or third time," Eden added.
With the NDA fielding Union Minister of State for Tourism, Alphons Kannanthanam and the left pinning its hopes in CPI(M)'s P Rajeevan, 35-year old Hibi is speculated to be the most popular candidate among young voters, apart from being a familiar face in Ernakulam by virtue of being the MLA.
However, Congress's Ernakulam face is not free of scandal. Hibi has been accused of sexual assault by Saritha S Nair, an accused in the Solar scam and an independent candidate who wished to contest from Ernakulam but whose nomination was rejected by the Election Commission. Saritha has even gone on record to state that her campaigns were not to win, but to ensure that Hibi Eden does not get elected.
Refusing to elaborate on the accusations, Hibi said, "I really don't want to comment on any silly things. Everybody is free to contest elections in a democratic society. I don't think there is anything wrong in contesting in elections.”
In Kerala this election season, the Congress and LDF are pitted for a fierce battle with Indian National Congress President Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad – his second seat. After an evidently irked CPI(M) in their mouthpiece 'Deshabhimani' termed Rahul Gandhi's candidature in Wayanad as a 'Pappu Strike' – a name given to him by the BJP, Rahul Gandhi retaliated by stating that he would not utter a word against the CPI(M).
Shedding light on the issue, Hibi said, "The CPI(M) is going the BJP way. The ideas they have espoused are the same as the BJP's and this is a clear example. We are proud of the fact that a potential PM candidate like Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Wayanad. It is a historical opportunity. But these parties (CPI(M) and BJP) are two faces of the same coin and the Deshabhimani headline proves it."