At an election rally held in Malappuram’s Vengara recently, a young woman was seen delivering a passionate speech—raising a pointed finger while raising her voice as well. The woman was 31-year-old P Jiji, Kerala’s Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate from Vengara.
The fact that Jiji is the first woman candidate from the CPI(M) to take on Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) PK Kunhalikutty in his stronghold, makes the battle for Malappuram’s Vengara constituency of particular interest in the upcoming election. The IUML is the second-largest ally of the Congress-led UDF.
After resigning as the MLA for the constituency in order to contest in the 2017 Lok Sabha bye-elections, Kunhalikutty once again resigned as a Member of Parliament in February 2021 to contest in the upcoming state Assembly election.
"Even after a tree is cut down by the hatchet, the rest of the trees vote for the hatchet itself, because the piece of wood attached to it belongs to their community,” Jiji was heard saying at an election rally, alluding to the IUML workers as the trees and Kunhalikutty as the hatchet.
While 69-year-old Kunhalikutty is a seven-time MLA who has been contesting since 1982, the upcoming Assembly election marks Jiji’s first major political battle. She is a native of Edavannapara in Malappuram, hailing from a family of labourers.
As a student, Jiji was known for her leadership in the Students Federation of India (SFI). She is currently a state committee member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the youth wing of the CPI(M). She is also a member of the Kondotty Area committee of the CPI(M).
Jiji was an active figure in the SFI’s demonstrations against a land donation scam at the University of Calicut in 2014. She was jailed twice, and pictures of her getting injured during the scuffle were widely shared at the time. The UDF had formed the state government in 2011, with Oommen Chandy as the Chief Minister. Before that, in 2010 when she was the vice chairperson of the Calicut University Students’ Union, actor Sarath Kumar expressed appreciation for a speech that she delivered at a fest, which the actor had inaugurated. He even shared a video recently, seeking votes for Jiji for the upcoming election.
“She is a good orator whose speech can attract students irrespective of politics. She is someone who used to be at the forefront of all protests, even if she got beaten up while raising slogans. The time of Jiji’s studies in the university witnessed several student protests. Police had even opened fire at protestors during one such demonstration,” Muzambil, a family friend of Jiji who is also a member of the SFI, shared with TNM.
Jiji, who did her post-graduation from the Sree Krishna College in Guruvayur, is presently a research scholar at the Calicut University. “Even the trees and the sand at the Calicut University know her,” VP Sanu, national president of the SFI told TNM. Sanu is the CPI(M) candidate for the Malappuram Lok Sabha bye-election, which will be held along with the Assembly election.
Apart from her oratory and leadership, Jiji is also known for being a theatre artist, and has won awards for the same. Her husband Sajith Soman is an SFI leader as well.