Both groups have strong followers in parts of the district and it will be crucial to see how the outfits will fare in the election.

How will Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20 and V4Kochi fare in Ernakulam Experts weigh inFrom Left: Sabu M Jacob (Chief of Twenty 20), Nipun Cherian (Founding member and candidate of V4Kochi)
news 2021 KERALA ASSEMBLY ELECTION Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 16:33

Ernakulam district will be of special interest to political observers in Kerala during this upcoming Assembly polls, as two popular groups in the district, one centred in rural Ernakulam — Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20, and one focused in Kochi city limits, V4Kochi (presently V4People Party) — have fielded candidates for the Assembly polls from multiple constituencies in the district. While political observers said that the groups could garner some votes, it is still speculative as to how far they can be a decisive factor in the district.

Ernakulam has had a clear upperhand for the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), with the front fielding sitting Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in 11 out of the 14 constituencies, while CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) is presently holding three constituencies — Vypeen, Kochi and Trippunithura.

However, both Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20 and V4Kochi, which garnered support in two different ways, have strong followers in parts of the district and it will be crucial to see how the outfits will fare in the election.

The Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20 is the corporate social responsibility wing of the Anna Kitex Group, an aluminium and textile industry headquartered in Kizhakkambalam, part of the Kunnathunad Assembly constituency. The group has had a steady growth, starting from making history in 2015, by being the first corporate wing to rule a Kerala local body — the Kizhakkambalam gram panchayat. It now governs three neighbouring panchayats — Kunnathunad, Aikkaranadu and Mazhuvannoor, all part of the Kunnathunad Assembly constituency.

For the first time the outfit has fielded candidates for Assembly polls from eight constituencies — Vypeen, Thrikkakara, Perumbavoor, Muvattupuzha, Kunnathunad, Ernakulam, Kothamangalam, Kochi — including its stronghold Kunnathunad.

While a list of welfare measures of the CSR wing, like construction of houses for poor, a supermarket selling items at a subsidised rate, etc, made the Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20 popular in panchayats of the Kunnathunad constituency, V4Kochi entered the political fray by addressing civic issues in Kochi city. The outfit is led by a group of Kochi residents, including a few activists who work on civic issues and against corruption.

The group under the banner of V4Kochi, contested in the 2020 local body elections, fielding candidates from wards of Kochi corporation. Though the outfit could not come to power in any wards, it managed to come second in three wards and in third position in 10 wards, displacing prominent political parties in the region.

For the Assembly polls, V4Kochi has renamed itself to V4People Party, fielding candidates in three constituencies — Kochi, Ernakulam and Thrikkakara, all part of Kochi city and its suburbs.

Read: Kizhakkambalam Twenty 20: How a corporate group has entered the Kerala Assembly polls

Will the two outfits have an impact?

According to the experts, the main factor which will come to play is the nature of the Assembly election, which is often not centred on local level issues. And hence, for the outfits, garnering wide attention will be a challenge.

“Assembly polls are totally different from local body elections which are centred on local issues. Though the outfits do have a stronghold in some pockets or even at the ward-level, it will not be enough to create an impact in an Assembly constituency as a whole,” said D Dhanuraj, chairman of Kochi based thinktank Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR).

Twenty 20 has made recent attempts to garner wider attention by bringing some popular faces of Kerala, including actor Sreenivasan, filmmaker Siddique, industrialist Kochouseph Chittilapally etc, into the outfit. Latest in the line was Congress veteran and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s son-in law Varghese George.

However, Dhanuraj observes that popular faces alone won’t suffice and that the outfit’s stance on pressing political issues in the state also matters. While Twenty 20’s campaign is based on development and welfare measures done in Kizhakkambalam panchayat, V4Kochi (V4People Party) campaign moots for, in their words, “overthrowing traditional political parties which are submerged in corruption”.

“In case of Twenty 20, when we observe the interviews given by its officials to the media, it is clear how they do not have a stand on pressing political issues in the state. While these are mostly debated issues in most of the places in Kerala, as an outfit aiming to stand for Assembly election, they should definitely take a stance,” he said. He also observed how the V4People Party has also not been able to raise their benchmark apart from the local issues they raised in the past local body elections.

However, experts feel that the rise of such outfits points to the changing concept of what politics has become for people.

“Whether they garner many votes or not, the rise of such outfits should be considered a failure of political parties. The major political parties have already set an idea that politics is about free aids and welfare measures. They have forgotten to address the politics of emancipation. So in this situation, as far as people are concerned, corporate groups like Twenty 20 can bring in much more welfare measures than what a political party can, so voters normally get attracted to it,” says J Prabhash, academic and political observer.

Experts also feel that the outfits haven’t been able to get an upper hand even in the campaigning in the constituencies. “Travelling across these constituencies, one does find their posters along with the other political fronts. However, they are not being able to bring people to streets,” observers Dhanuraj. Both the outfits do garner good traction in social media but it has to be observed and seen whether this will convert into votes during the election.

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