There were seven of them last year. Now, with only two months to go, 2017 is likely to close with three. Not bad, considering that this is not an election year. We are talking of yatras or jathas as they are known in Kerala.
So, what is it that makes these jathas an integral part of the state’s polity, apart from the lay of the land which makes it easier to cover ground, than, say, Gujarat? Sure, just before the elections, every political party considers this a mandatory exercise, to shake the cadre off its slumber, literally. Most of them get off the blocks in Kasargod and wind up in Thiruvananthapuram. Many in the northern district complain they are remembered mostly for two reasons; the other is for ‘punishment transfers’.
No exaggeration, as 2016 saw the Kerala Unarthu (awakening) Yatra by the NCP, followed by Congress’
Kerala Raksha Yatra. The BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan then tested the waters with Kerala Vimochana (liberation) Yatra. After the no-frills Kerala Yatra by the Muslim League, came the Nava Kerala Yatra led by Pinarayi Vijayan who went on to become chief minister pretty soon. There were also the Jana Jagrata (vigil) yatra of the Indian National League and Kerala Janakeeya (popular) Yatra led by the CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran.
The stray political pundit would say this is no season for yatras but the fag end of the year has seen not one, but three. The BJP, this time with the tag Jana Raksha Yatra, finished the state tour in two weeks. The LDF, now donning the Jagrata Yatra mantle, also plans to finish it off in 14 days.
But the Congress in no mood to play the limited overs game; the Padayorukkam (battle-ready) march led by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala will stretch for a month. There are no more yatras on the horizon, bringing to mind the one-liner of the impoverished protagonist in the hit Malayalam movie Punjabi House from almost two decades ago, “I’m catching this one as this is the last jatha; no more left today.”