KOCHI :It seems politics is everyone’s cup of tea in Kerala. For the first time in the history of civic body elections in the state, a corporate group has fielded its candidates in the polls to be held next month. Twenty20, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) venture of the `1,200 crore Anna-Kitex Group, has fielded candidates in all the 19 wards of the Kizhakkambalam panchayat.
Kitex Garments is facing protest from the public against the alleged pollution caused by the company. “Of the 8,500 families in the Kizhakkambalam panchayat, majority of the families are associated with Kitex. We are moving with a vision to transform Kizhakkambalam into the best panchayat of the country by 2020. The group has invested around `28 crore in the last two years for development projects in the panchayat. We are hopeful of winning 70 per cent of the votes,” said Sabu M Jacob, Managing Director, Kitex Garments. The Kerala civic body elections is scheduled in two phrases on November 2 and 5. The counting of votes will be held on November 7.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the Ernakulam district is against the move as it is of the opinion that the usage of CSR fund for politics is unfair. Interestingly, pollution is the major problem which drags corporate groups into the local body elections fray.
Nitta Gelatin India Ltd (NGIL) Managing Director Sajiv K Menon ruled out any possibility of participating in local body elections in Kadukutty Panchayat which homes Kathikudam, where the company is situated. “We do not want to enter into the elections either way (directly or indirectly). But whoever wins we are hopeful to get a fair treatment,” he said. NGIL was facing pollution allegations at Kathikkudam near Chalakkudy.
It was alleged that Cochin Minerals and Rutile Limited (CMRL) had an indirect influence in the Thrikkunnapuzha panchayat in Alappuzha in the local body elections in the past. The company was facing protest from the local community regarding the mineral sand mining in Thrikkunnapuzha and Arattupuzha. When contacted, CMRL Managing Director S N Sasidharan Kartha said, “CMRL is a company and does not have any inclination towards any political parties.”
- Twenty20, a corporate social responsibility venture of the `1200-crore Anna-Kitex Group of companies, has fielded candidates in the local body elections of all the 19 wards of the Kizhakkambalam panchayat
- The Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Ernakulam district has warned corporate groups against fielding candidates in the upcoming civic polls or any other election
- LDF alleged that some corporate groups are using the CSR allocation to woo people and are fielding candidates for providing the services and programmes implemented under the CSR scheme
- The Kerala civic body elections are scheduled in two phrases on November 2 and 5. The counting of votes will be held on November 7
LDF in Ernakulam has warned corporate groups against fielding candidates in the upcoming civic polls or any other election for that matter. Responding to the Anna-Kitex Group’s plan to field candidates under the aegis of Twenty20, a charity organisation, the CPI(M) district secretary P Rajeeve said, “We are against the corporate houses deciding the candidates in a democratic election. What would become if Ambani or Adani use two per cent of their profit, meant for the CSR activities, to fight elections and field their own candidates? It is indeed an unwelcome trend, and a bad precedent.”
Under the Companies Act and CSR Rules, the companies having net worth of `500 crore or a turnover of `1,000 crore or more, or net profit worth `5 crore or more are required to spend at least two per cent of its average net profit for three financial years on CSR activities.
“The benefits of the CSR activities should actually be aimed at everyone in the society without discrimination. But at Kizhakkambalam, CSR benefits go to the members of the Twenty20 only,” said CPI district secretary P Raju. They should use the mandated CSR allocation in the right way and stay away from meddling in politics, he demanded. “The corporate grip over politics and democracy would be fatal for the society,” warned the LDF leaders.
“We are using our hard-earned money for the overall development of Kizhakkambalam panchayat. It can be the CSR money or from other sources. Are they (politicians) really worried about the fact that we are working for the good of the people? We are not against any political party. Our sole aim is the development of Kizhakkambalam. We have the resource to serve the people. With Twenty20, we are setting a model which can be replicated by other corporate houses. If others join, we can transform many regions in the state,” said Jacob.