5 auto driver friends are rival candidates in Kerala local body polls

The five friends, all of them auto drivers, are contesting across two wards in Vazhakulam panchayat of Ernakulam district.
From left: Soudheesh, Abdul Hameed, Sreedevan, Ansar Ali, Siyad
From left: Soudheesh, Abdul Hameed, Sreedevan, Ansar Ali, Siyad
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What happens when close friends with different political ideologies contest in polls against each other? The friendship stays intact, say five auto drivers in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, who are contesting against each other across two wards in Vazhakulam gram panchayat.

“It’s a friendly match,” says 52-year-old KS Abdul Hameed, who is contesting for the Left Democratic Front (LDF) from Marampally ward in Vazhakulam panchayat. His rival candidates, BJP’s Soudheesh and independent candidate Siyad Haneefa, are his friends and colleagues who have been operating auto-rickshaws from the same stand for several years now.

In ward one, Kunnathukara, BJP candidate Sreedevan is contesting against his classmate Ansar Ali, a candidate of the LDF.

All five who run auto-rickshaws from the Marampally stand, are familiar faces among the people of the region and hence it is amusing for the voters to see the friends contesting against each other, says Sreedevan.

“People ask whether the campaigning and polls will ruin our friendship. But this has not impacted our friendship even a bit. In fact we are waiting for the polls to end to get back together,” Sreedevan said.

The friends have kept their campaigning healthy, devoid of personal attacks. “We are like a family. Even after the polls, we will be working together," says 34-year-old Ansar Ali. The campaigns are solely based on addressing and discussing the local issues faced by people, adds Siyad Haneeda, the independent candidate in Marampally.

The auto drivers are also popular in the region for the charity work that they do.

“For the past 10 years, we have been working in an organisation called ‘Sadhu Paripalana Sangam’. Every week, all the auto drivers in our stand donate Rs 50. Using this, we donate Rs 5,000 to the neediest three people in the region every month. We have been doing this for years,” says Abdul Hameed, founder of the organisation. Whoever wins, it will be a celebration for us as auto drivers and friends, he adds.


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