“The youth is against corruption and communalism. Both these points are against UDF and BJP," he says.

Lal Salaam for Thrissur How LDFs Sunil Kumar is leveraging youth power to win the seatV S Sunil Kumar/Facebook
news Kerala Polls 2016 Monday, April 18, 2016 - 20:17

On a Monday morning, empty red chairs and a party worker in the adjacent room keep me company at the CPI office in Thrissur while I wait for VS Sunil Kumar, the LDF candidate from Thrissur constituency. He was elected as MLA from Kaipamangalam constituency in the 2011 assembly elections, but this time, he will contest from the city constituency. Over the next few minutes, the office gradually comes alive. Party workers trickled in and out of the office and prepare for the day ahead. An hour and a half later, Sunil Kumar sends word and I make my way to Sree Kerala Varma college a few kilometers away.

Sunil Kumar is a busy man.

After meeting some party workers, he was attending a get-together with his batch mates from Kerala Varma College, his alma mater. Sunil Kumar proudly stands surrounded by his former batch mates, smiling at a camera that is capturing the comeback of ex-students of the college.

“We are from the B.A. batch of 1987,” says TN Augustin, now a businessman, who is one of the twenty-one people who have come to show their support for Sunil Kumar.

This is the first time the B.A batch of 1987 is coming together after almost three decades. What is special about this election, I ask them. “What is not special about it?” asks Shiva Kumar who has come down from UAE specially to campaign for his old friend, “He is the most straightforward and honest person I know, and he deserves to be supported wholeheartedly.”

Conversations about romantic relationships during college days surfaces and the old banyan trees on campus (from which strips of red cloth now hangs) are remembered for having witnessed many a secret conversation of couples, and they all break into a guffaw.

VS Sunil Kumar at Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur

About half an hour later, we leave the campus where Sunil Kumar shone as a student leader in his time. His next stop is at a house in Pullazhi, a few kilometers from the college, where someone recently passed away. On the way to Pullazhi, we catch up in his car.

He points out his main priorities one by one. “When we come to power, one of our immediate priorities will be to clarify the ambiguity in the land acquisition act,” he says, referring to a dispute on 59 cent of land in Kaipamangalam with regard to a project for which Rs.90 Cr has already been allotted. “The project was stalled when the Land Acquisition Act was amended making 80% of consensus mandatory. My term ended before the dispute was sorted out. The project will not be affected because it is only two families who are opposing it,” he adds.

On the lines of his activities in Kaipamangalam, he said that in the education sector, development of government and government-aided schools and colleges is one of his priorities. Asked about the difference in the requirements of Kaipamangalam and Thrissur constituency, he said, “My idea of development is not merely building of bridges, but with regard to Thrissur constituency, I realize the need for it because the traffic affects daily life of people. Though Thrissur is a city, development that befits a city has not yet come,” he said.

On the way to Pullazhi, Sunil Kumar waves at people on the road. Seeing a group of young men, he asks for the car to be stopped, pulls down this car window, and call out to them, “Comrades! Lal Salaam!”

He then continues from where he left off.

“Health sector is another area I give utmost importance to. The district hospital has been upgraded to a general hospital, but apart from the change in name, there has been no progress. This hospital, situated at the heart of the city is equipped with all facilities but is not put to good use,” he said.

Road development and building of flyovers that will ease the traffic congestion which will eventually also help the traders in Thrissur are other priorities that this LDF candidate has. Drinking water issues in panchayats like Vilvattom, Ayyanhtole, Koorkenjery and Ollukkara that were included in the corporation have also attracted Sunil Kumar’s attention.

Since the 1991 Assembly elections, Thrissur has been a UDF dominated constituency with Therambil Ramakrishnan being elected to power consistently. This time, however, UDF has fielded Padmaja Venugopal. Asked why Thrissur will think differently this time, he says that no public will bring back a corrupt government. “People are fed up with UDF corruption and they are demanding change. I wouldn’t say Therambil Ramakrishnan is corrupt. If he were, people would not have supported him for all these years. But the general politics in the State will have an impact on how people think and vote,” he said.

As we go through Pullazhi, small groups of men are stationed at every turning to guide their leader with directions. He is careful not to visit any other house, lest people view it as campaigning. Ten minutes later, we were headed back to the party office. We then continue our conversation.

Dismissing BJP’s win in local body elections, he says that anti-Congress votes favored BJP but that will not reflect in assembly election. “BJP will contest election as it contests every time. They have never been able to open account in Kerala, and they never will,” he chuckles.

Sunil Kumar sees youngsters and first-time voters as pivotal in this election, “The youth is against corruption and communalism. Both these points are against UDF and BJP.”

After taking to social media for campaigning, next in line is a rally from Tuesday for a period of five days covering ten divisions a day. Four hundred of his party workers will wear the newly printed t-shirts in which Sunil Kumar's photo is printed on one side, and the party symbol on the other.

A party worker with a T-shirt which has Sunil Kumar's photo printed on it

He gives the defense of “merely a retaliatory statement and not violent politics” when asked about his statement on a TV debate on the JNU issue, where he replied to Rahul Eshwar saying that if anti-India slogans were indeed raised by Kanhaiya Kumar, CPI would not wait for others to chop off his hand, but will do it themselves.  He quickly accuses the BJP of violent politics by pointing out the murders of Govind Pansare and Kalburgi. “CPI is a party of martyrs,” he says, “What the LDF fears is a possible combined attempt by BJP and UDF to prevent LDF from forming government.”

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