MUVATTUPUZHA: It is around 4.30pm. Vazhakulam, home to the largest pineapple market in Asia, was busy with workers loading trucks and farmers arriving with their produce. A public announcement vehicle for Twenty20 candidate C N Prakash, a mediaperson trying his luck from the Muvattupuzha constituency, drove into the area and stayed for a while.
Once the vehicle left the market, politics became the talking point. The symbol allotted to Twenty20 is pineapple. And it evokes a sentiment in Vazhakulam, popularly known as the ‘pineapple city’.“Both the leading fronts will suffer this time as there is a chance the Twenty20 candidate would bag more than 25,000 votes,” said Babu, a worker from Kadalikkadu. “They have launched good campaigns in Arakuzha and Ayavana panchayats. The good work they have done in Kizhakkambalam prompted many to join Twenty20.”
Babu said he has not yet decided who to vote for as campaigning is yet to hit the peak. Saji, who accompanied Babu, chipped in: “The sitting MLA, Eldo Abraham, had a huge opportunity but he failed to provide anything for the people during his five-year tenure. Meanwhile, UDF candidate Mathew Kuzhalnadan is unacceptable to his neighbours in Pothanikkadu.”
The previous year was the worst for farmers and wholesale dealers because of the Covid-19 outbreak. “The price fell drastically during the lockdown. Now, it is `25 per kg. Cultivation is profitable only if the farmer receives a sum above `25 per kg,” said Mathew, a farmer from Kadavoor, who joined in the conversation. He said farmers were hopeful of the new government bringing relief to the farmers.“The UDF has an edge in Muvattupuzha but media reports say the trend is in favour of the Left in the state,” he said.
Appachan, a wholesale dealer, felt Twenty20 may not make any impact in the constituency as they lack influence here. “They have no organisational set up in the Muvattupuzha constituency. So it may be difficult to coordinate electioneering,” he said.However, Babu said the Kitex group — which is behind the Twenty20 campaign — is learnt to be planning to open a mall in Muvattupuzha town and provide jobs to several persons. “Thereby they will expand their base and, in the next election, they will mark their presence,” he said.
When the scene shifted to Muvattupuzha, the town was adorned with Congress flags as Rahul Gandhi, MP, the former party chief, was arriving in the town to attend a UDF meeting in support party candidate Mathew Kuzhalnadan. While hundreds of Congress workers were flocking to the venue — the Municipal Stadium — to hear Rahul, the Left leaders were involved in a meeting at their office in Kacherithazham to take Eldo Abraham’s campaign to the next phase.
Congress fielded Kuzhalnadan, a former state president of the All India Professional Congress, to wrest the seat from CPI’s Eldo as Muvattupuzha is a known UDF fortress. Jiji Joseph is the NDA candidate here.
The LDF too fears the Twenty20 would drain their votes. But party workers would like to believe its impact will be felt only in the Kunnathunadu constituency. “Twenty20 can do nothing here. People are well aware of the things the government has done. Now, I need not give money to my mother for her treatment expenses as she gets her monthly pension,” said Nazar, a resident of Muvattupuzha and an active CPM worker.
Teams of Twenty20 supporters — clad in white T-shirts and caps bearing the name the group’s name — were seen conducting door-to-door campaigns in the constituency. Their supporters were deployed from their strongholds to campaign in Muvattupuzha.“We have no grass-root level committees in the Muvattupuzha constituency. So we came from Mazhuvannur panchayat which falls in the Kunnathunadu constituency. I joined Twenty20 after learning about the development initiatives initiated by them in Kizhakkambalam,” said Eliyas, a retired teacher and a member of the group campaigning in the Mekkadampu area.