Local political startups in the fray

Five years on, Twenty20 seems to have many followers.

KOCHI: After Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam’s success, Chellanam Twenty20 and V4Kochi are getting ready to test the waters in the coming local body elections. While these groups may prove a headache for established parties,their survival in the long run remains to be seen

In 2015, Kerala witnessed an unprecedented political incident when Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam, a charity floated by Anna Kitex Group, trounced major political parties to win the reins of Kizhakkambalam panchayat, a quaint hamlet in the suburbs of Ernakulam. It won 17 of the 19 grama panchayat seats and two of the three block panchayat seats with an impressive 69 per cent vote share. The corporate-controlled panchayat was touted as the “next major thing” and an alternative to the existent political system.

Five years on, Twenty20 seems to have many followers. While the fishing hamlet of Chellanam followed suit by setting up Chellanam Twenty20, another group of politically-charged Kochiites has come up with V4Kochi, a socio-political organisation. Both have already decided to test the waters in the local body elections tentatively set to be held in December. 

The alternative 
According to Pavizham Biju, who is in the forefront of Chellanam Twenty20, forming the organisation and contesting the elections are a way of protesting against the indifference meted out to them.“We are sure of making a mark since we have the backing of 80 per cent of the people. Only those with strong affiliation to other political parties have a difference of opinion,” says Biju. The organisation has already finalised a list, from which the candidates for the 21 wards in the panchayat will be selected. The WhatsApp group formed for each ward has active discussions on the issue they face. 

“Our manifesto will include the construction of the seawall and beach nourishment initiatives,” says Biju. While Chellanam Twenty20 is formed on the lines of Kizhakambalam Twenty20, V4Kochi claims to be different. “We do not follow the Kizhakkambalam model. We are a socio-political group with members coming from all walks of life. What makes us different from similar organisations is the fact that we aim to wipe out traditional political parties, which are obsolete now. We are challenging them and our efforts are not confined to a panchayat or a corporation,” says Nipun Cherian, campaign controller and one of the founding members. V4Kochi aims to field independent candidates in all major wards. 

Crowdfunding to their aid 
While taking on major political parties might earn them visibility, availability of funds for campaigning might come as a hurdle to such organisations. According to poll analysts, Kizhakambalam Twenty20 might have the backing of a major corporate organisation, while initiatives like Chellanam Twenty20 and V4Kochi are devoid of such a support system.

Both these organisations are pinning their hopes on crowdfunding. Biju says Chellanam Twenty20 hopes to seek aid from people in the area who are living outside India. “While major political parties spend over `1.5 lakh for campaigning and booth expenses, we plan to limit that to `20,000. We aim to gather ground support with door-to-door campaigning,” he added.

V4Kochi too aims to open a bank account for the same. “Our USP is transparency in dealing, including financial. We will set an upper limit and once we hit that limit, the account will cease to take money. Every single penny used for campaign work will be accounted for and exhibited on our Facebook page,” says Nipun.

Sabu M Jacob,mentor, Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam
The success of Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam is mainly because people wanted a change from conventional political organisations. We are hoping such initiatives come up but expansion will be done only after a study. We will study about a place and its demands before contesting in other places. As of now, we have zeroed in on four nearby panchayats as part of expanding the model.

Adv a Jayasankar, political analyst
While this movement might see support among grassroots level in local body elections, it is unlikely to have a long-lasting effect. Such movements reflect the angst of the people towards conventional political parties and their alleged apathy. This is similar to the backing Aam Admi Party got in 2014, but to replicate a Delhi here in Kerala would be a challenge, considering the general populace and their strong affiliation to major political parties. History has shown us that rarely do political parties which do not belong to the two popular fronts make a mark. If BJP with its immense resources failed, the fate of others isn’t going to be different. Such movements might make some effect at the local level where people put aside political affiliations in favour of the candidate.

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The New Indian Express