It’s a hot March afternoon in Chelora in Kerala’s Kannur district. Despite the scorching heat, C Vasantha, dressed in a pink salwar-kameez and open-toe sandals, and with a thick line of vermillion on her forehead, has been carrying on with her job — visiting 15 of the 400 homes in the area.
She has just begun her first round of the day. A CPI(M) branch committee member, the 50-year-old is part of a group of party workers in the Kannur Lok Sabha constituency responsible for interacting with people and taking the Left Democratic Front government’s message to the ground.
Vasantha joined the CPI(M) in 2001, and also took up the job of a saksharatha prerak (literacy worker) in 2005. “The job of encouraging people to join various educational programmes gives me an opportunity to interact with more people in the area, which in turn also benefits my political work,” she says, adding, “In the past, as a literacy worker, I got only Rs 3,000 a month. The Left government has increased the honorarium to Rs 12,000.” Follow more election news here.
Vasantha comes from a family of Communists. Her husband Haridasan, a daily wager, and son Sherin Das, who is pursuing graduation, are both CPI(M) members. Her daughter Hima is married and lives in the Middle East.
Vasantha says she has been engaged in campaigning work for the party right from the time elections were announced.
“The party leadership has asked us to ensure that the campaigning is done in a proper manner on the ground. Of the 15 families that I have been interacting with, 12 are Hindus and three Muslims. We have already completed the first round of our campaigning,’’she says, sitting in her two-storey home in Vattampoyil village in Chelora, a Left bastion. The neighbourhood has a mix of daily wagers, government employees and families with men working in Middle East countries.
In her interactions, says Vasantha, she has been particularly highlighting the LDF government’s move to deliver monthly welfare pensions to people’s homes. “Earlier, the money used to be deposited in banks. Now, a few old people get their pension delivered at home,” says Vansantha, who has studied till Class 12, adding that grassroots party cadres like her have to keep their “eyes open” all the time.
With her children both grown-up and settled, she says, she does not have much trouble managing her many roles — that of a homemaker, party worker and literacy worker.
But there is one issue, she admits, that has led to some problems during campaigning — Sabarimala. CM Pinarayi Vijayan has backed the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the entry of women of all ages into Sabarimala temple, but the devotees in the state have been divided on the verdict.
“We have been explaining to the people that the CPI(M) is not against those who have faith in the temple,’’ she says.
Both Vansantha and her husband are believers and visit the local temple often. She says she supports her party’s stand on the verdict. “It is the apex court’s verdict and everyone has to accept it.’’
The 50-year-old insists that her party’s position on Sabarimala will not impact election results. “In our family gatherings too we have been explaining the party’s stand and the BJP’s bid to make gains by polarising people,” she says, steering the conversation towards the development work done by her party.
As she leaves for another round of visits, she wonders, “A small section of people have been asking us whether it was necessary to take young women to Sabarimala with police escorts… I can’t say how the voters will react.”