Disillusioned with political parties, new groups enter Kerala poll fray

Thiruvananthapuram: Call them NGOs, social organisations or start-up social groups. They all have the common hope of capitalizing on a strongly perceived need of the hour, namely redemption from corrupt practices of established traditional political parties.

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These groups are the new flavour of the upcoming panchayat elections in Kerala, which are due next month.

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In 2015 a hastily-formed society that named itself 2020 Kizhakkambalam decided to contest the panchayat elections and won a whopping 17 of the 19 seats, setting an exciting precedent for social groups aiming to topple traditional political parties from their entrenched positions.

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More groups in the fray

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With the 2020 local body elections round the corner, not only is 2020 Kizhakkambalam the strongest contender in that panchayat, it has helped spawn that idea into more local bodies across the state.

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In nearby Chellanam, local youth have organized themselves into an entity called Chellanam 2020 on the lines of the Kizhakkambalam model, hoping to replicate the style of governance successfully demonstrated in Kizhakkambalam.

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Another group is active in Thiruvananthapuram, named TVM, or the Thiruvananthapuram Vikasana Munnettam (Thiruvananthapuram development movement), while yet another group called V4Kochi is making waves in Kochi, vowing to offer an efficient and transparent governance of the Kochi Corporation if the organization is elected.

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Direct democracy

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The 16 members of the core team of V4Kochi have known each other through various social interventions including the flood relief work in 2018, but it is now that they have come together under an umbrella with the promise to clean up governance in the Kochi Corporation.

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“For long we have believed that the system will somehow clean itself, but now it is clear that people ought to play a role to ensure that the system changes. India is conceived to be a direct democracy, but we have politicians as intermediaries. It is high time that power reached the ordinary citizen, with total transparency”, 34-year-old Nipun Cherian who heads V4Kochi told Gulf News.

###Nipun Cherian, Campaign Controller of V4Kochi###

With his leadership of V4Kochi even as he runs his own company, Crafstsmac Labs, Cherian is proving another point – that politics need not be a full-time occupation.

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Transparency is priority

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Cherian’s colleague in V4Kochi, Sujith Sukumaran works with one of India’s leading IT services companies, but finds time to help with the organisation’s preparations for the upcoming Kochi Corporation elections.

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“The lack of transparency is a key reason for much of the corruption that happens now. With the technology resources that we now have, it is entirely possible to assure a transparent governance to the common man”, says Sukumaran.

###Sujith Sukumaran, Core team member, V4Kochi###

As an example, he points to the toll collections at various roads in the state, with the average road user being completely ignorant of how much it cost to build the road, how much toll has been collected so far, and for how long more the builder will be collecting toll.

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Local issues

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Unlike the assembly or parliament elections, local body polls feature local issues where it is easier for smaller outfits to take on major political parties and even defeat them as happened at Kizhakkambalam in 2015.

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“We conducted a survey, found out the reuirements of the people and could act on the basis of the findings”, Sabu Thomas who heads 2020 Kizhakkambalam said.

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At Chellanam, the most pressing issue is the need for seawalls, as villagers whose homes are close to the beach face frequent soil erosion and damage to their homes. In Thiruvananthapuram, the clarion call is for development, which TVM is highlighting.

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Ready for battle

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Whatever the local issue, the new outfits are ready to take on the entrenched political parties. At Chellanam and Kizhakkambalam, they have announced all their candidates for the various wards, while traditional parties are still entangled in the choice of candidates.

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And in Kerala’s commercial capital Kochi, V4Kochi intends to contest in all 74 councils. Whatever the result, Kerala seems to be putting forth an alternative for the tried and tested governance style of traditional political parties.

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