KOCHI: When Twenty20, the CSR wing of the Kitex group, contested the local body elections in the Kizhakkambalam panchayat on the outskirts of Kochi in 2015, it created history by becoming the first corporate house in the country to enter the political fray. It also ruffled the feathers of many a political party when it won 17 out of the 19 seats on offer.
Now, the Rs 1,500 crore group is looking to storm another bastion long held by the CPM-led Left Front and the Congress-led UDF: The cash-rich cooperative banks at Kizhakkambalam.
Kizhakkambalam panchayat for its size has two cooperative banks viz., the Kizhakkambalam Service Cooperative Bank and Malayidomthuruthu Cooperative Bank. While the Congress-led front runs the Kizhakkambalam Cooperative bank, the CPM controls the other.
With Malayidomthuruthu Cooperative Bank heading for elections next year, Twenty20 has started the groundwork to find the eligible members and garnering their support. Sabu M Jacob, managing director of Kitex, which is the world’s third-largest kids wear maker, told Express all was not well at both the cooperative banks. “Political parties are milking the cooperative banks for their vested interest. Many people hold more than one membership cards (double entry) at the bank. There are also cases where memberships are active in the name of persons who have died several years ago,” said Sabu.
A source told Express that Twenty20 tried to field its candidates in the Kizhakkambalam Cooperative Bank elections but withdrew at the last minute after finding it may not be able to succeed. “There were cases when the bank officers threatened to go after loan defaulters if they voted for Twenty20,” said the source. “This made several members to back the incumbent management,” he said.
K K Elias, president of Malayidomthuruthu Cooperative Bank, said Twenty20 raised the allegation of ‘double entry’ even during the election at Kizhakkambalam Cooperative Bank but failed to prove it. Elias said at Malayidomthuruthu bank elections, slated to be held sometime in 2018, such allegations are raised. “We challenge Twenty20 to prove the allegations,” he said.
Sabu of Kitex group said proper ID cards should be issued ahead of the elections next year. “Cooperative bank is a big financing area for the political parties. We have raised our complaints to the Registrar of Societies, but people at the helm are political nominees. Our interest is to clean up the banks and serve the people of the panchayat, just like we improved people’s lives through Twenty20,” he said.