Updated: April 6, 2021 1:36:39 am
Vathuruthy, part of Willingdon Island in Kochi, is an island of its own. Home to around 5,000 migrants from Tamil Nadu, Vathuruthy’s streets come alive in the evenings — hawkers selling clothes and plastic items line both sides of the road leading to the colony; there’s more Tamil than Malayalam that you hear in these parts; and photographs of M G Ramachandran, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa, icons of Tamil politics, stare out of many a wallet.
Every election, many of the residents here take the train or hop on to special buses arranged for them to go to their villages in neighboring Tamil Nadu, which usually votes on the same day as Kerala. This year, too, the two states go to the polls on April 6. Vathuruthy is part of the Ernakulam Assembly seat, where sitting UDF MLA T J Vinod is up against the LDF’s Shaji George.
Subbayya, a native of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, has been working in Kochi as a daily wager for the last 40 years. On April 4, he left for his home state to cast his vote.
For Subbayya and his neighbours, living in the heart of Ernakulam district has its advantages in the form of regular drinking water supply, continuous power supply and basic healthcare facilities, yet they do not think twice about going home to vote.
“While the daily wage here is higher (a construction worker gets Rs 1,000 a day while it is Rs 600 in Tamil Nadu), the welfare schemes there are better. We still have our ration card there and if we don’t vote, our names will be removed from the PDS list,” says Venkataraman, a 35-year-old construction worker.
His wife Rekha, who also works at construction sites, goes to Thiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu at least twice a month to meet their teenage children and to collect the ration.
A M Basheer, a local resident who lets out rooms to the Tamil workers, says there’s “another, real reason” why the migrants go home to vote. “Each of them gets at least Rs 5,000 from political parties there. You don’t get that in Kerala,” laughs Basheer.
While political parties in Tamil Nadu are known to announce freebies ahead of elections — everything from free rice to washing machines, grinders and television sets — this election, Kerala isn’t too far behind either.
While the LDF government’s free kits and increased social welfare pensions are a hit among the voters, the Congress is trying to catch up with its promises of a monthly pension of Rs 2,000 to homemakers, 5-kg free rice to all white card holders and five lakh homes for the poor.
With several residents on the voters’ list of both the states, almost every party eyes the votes of these Tamil residents, especially during local elections that don’t clash with those in Tamil Nadu.
Tibin Devasy, a young Congress leader, was elected to the Kochi Municipal Council from Vathuruthy ward in the recent local body elections. Devasy, who won by 92 votes, ensured that at least 250 of the migrants. who are registered as voters in Kochi but who went back to Tamil Nadu during the Covid lockdown, came back to vote.
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