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Kerala local body polls: To protest ‘partisan’ treatment by leaders, vlogger couple enters electoral fray

Noufa and her husband Muhammad Basil, who have over 5.5 lakh subscribers on two YouTube channels, are hoping to convert their online popularity into votes in Porur panchayat.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi | Updated: November 30, 2020 8:50:01 pm
Kerala local body polls, Kerala panchayat polls, Noufa’s Vibes, Noufa’s Kitchen videos, Kerala vloggers election candidates, kerala news, indian expressThe couple on one of their channels, ‘Noufa’s Vibes’. (Photo: YouTube)

A young vlogger couple has filed nominations as independent candidates in the upcoming local body elections in Kerala, to protest against ‘partisan’ treatment by their local elected representatives.

Noufa and her husband Muhammad Basil, who together have over 5.5 lakh subscribers on two YouTube channels, are hoping to convert their online popularity into votes in Porur panchayat in the heart of Malappuram district. While Noufa is contesting from the women-reserved 13th ward, Basil will try his luck from the 16th ward.

Noufa and Basil say they decided to take the electoral plunge as they experienced a sense of ‘alienation’ from their own representatives at the grassroot level.

“There was a time when Noufa would bake at home to help out the family financially. Some people pointed us to the panchayat, saying we could get certain benefits (as entrepreneurs). But at the panchayat office, they tried to avoid us, pretending to be unaware of any such benefits. We understood they were not interested in helping us because we didn’t identify as aligned to any political party. We were not their ‘own people’,” said Basil.

“When we put up stalls (to sell cakes) at the local school, our own ward members were biased against us. They encourage people from outside our panchayat, but not us. So we are using this election to send out a message of protest as well as to show people that they can contest elections (against parties) if they want,” he added.

Elections to the three-tier local bodies in the state –– scheduled this time in three phases on December 10, 12 and 14 –– are largely fought along political lines, with established parties and coalitions ruling the roost. But there have been instances of independents trumping political leaders.

Noufa and Basil are hoping for something similar. Basil says while voters in their neighbourhood are with them “mentally”, it is unclear if they will vote for them, considering “political repercussions they could face”.

Basil, 31, runs a poultry farm and taps rubber trees for a living, alongside vlogging with his wife. It was Noufa who entered the vlogging space first in 2017 through a cooking channel on YouTube called ‘Noufa’s Kitchen’ where she prepared traditional Kerala delicacies and tea-time snacks.

As her videos went viral, gathering thousands of views and loyal subscribers, she teamed up with her husband to open a second channel named ‘Noufa’s Vibes’, where they invited viewers into their daily life and the journeys they undertook.

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With the elections in mind, the couple have also documented in visual detail the laborious process of filing nominations as candidates, waiting to see if they pass the scrutiny of the returning officer and finally getting their election symbols, which in their case was a TV dish antenna. Noufa has also been vlogging about her experience of fighting elections while pregnant — she is in her ninth month of pregnancy with her third child.

“I just got her admitted to the hospital because she was had back pain. She is due in the last week of December, but both our daughters were born at least two weeks before the date. So you never know. Once she gets well, we plan to meet voters directly and campaign together,” said Basil.

Noufa was unavailable for comment due to health reasons.

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