Updated: April 5, 2021 5:42:50 pm
By Vandana Rajeevan
As the Kerala Assembly election campaign gains momentum, political parties and candidates are leaving no stone unturned to impress the voters. Politics in the state, for a long time, has seen the same old few players having the dominant hand in the game. This lasted until 2015, when a corporate-sponsored CSR Twenty-20 entered and flipped the panchayat elections by winning 17 out of the 19 seats. From then onwards, Kerala has seen the birth of local organisations competing in elections against the big parties. The newest of them all is V4 Kochi.
As a young group largely consisting of techies and scholars, they were considered the underdogs until the local elections of Kerala took place in December 2020. Though they did not win in any of the wards they had competed, V4 Kochi was able to make a dent in UDF’s vote share. This may have been all they needed before they declared that they were going to fight in the upcoming Assembly elections in April 2021.
From a small unit of 16 members, the organization grew with a sole goal in mind – to bring in transparency and accountability into the system. Sujith Sukumaran is one among the other two candidates of V4 Kochi contesting in the Ernakulam constituency. In an interview with the Indian Express, he said, “I am an IT professional from a middle-class family. Having grown up here, I have had to witness the corruption in our city on a regular basis. As I had no political background, my father was skeptical about me joining politics or having to do anything with it. But when Aravind Kejriwal, a man with an impressive educational background got into politics, a lot of us were very inspired.”
Sukumaran has been actively filing RTIs and grievances regarding a lot of issues concerning the society for the past six years. Among the many RTIs that he filed, he particularly spoke about the garbage disposal at the Old Railway Station. Despite the court orders to rebuild its walls, remove the waste from the vicinity and install surveillance cameras in the area, he alleges that waste still prevails and only one camera has been installed at a 3 km stretch. “If accountability in our system was taken seriously, this wouldn’t have happened. We don’t know what happened to the fund that was allocated for clearing the dump and setting the cameras. As a taxpayer, the reckless usage of funds have always bothered me”, he said.
In their campaigns, V4 Kochi has strongly pushed their desire for change. The members say that this is a question they have asked themselves for a long time now. “Aren’t we tired as citizens with the blank promises of the parties before every election? This corruption, blatant lies and daylight looting should be stopped. We need a change, don’t we? If they did their jobs well, we wouldn’t exist in the first place. But they are not, so we the common men have come out to fight against this corruption”, said Shoukath Ali, member of V4 Kochi, as he addressed the voters during house visits.
Though locals in the Ernakulam constituency said they were optimistic about V4 Kochi, many wondered if they stood a chance in a constituency that was ruled by the dominant parties for ages.
“They have performed so well in the previous elections. But people already have a strong leaning towards the dominant parties. As a new organization, I wonder if they can create an impact in the minds of the older generation. They better focus on the younger generation. That is where their vote banks lie”, said Narayan, a local shopkeeper in Ernakulam.
“Personally, I wished that they had formed an alliance with Twenty20. Together, they would have been a stronger contender. Maybe even a victory would have been guaranteed”, said Ajay, a localite.
On the other hand, V4 Kochi says their differences with Twenty20 are strong. “We are on two different paths. Though we initially considered an alliance and even spoke to them regarding it, it did not work in our favour”, said Shoukath Ali.
Despite having to work on their own, V4 Kochi is confident that they will at least be able to make an impact and stir the results yet again. “For me, winning has never been the ultimate aim. I got into this field hoping for a change. If our presence is enough to awaken the ruling parties to doing their jobs responsibly, I feel we have won”, concluded Sujith Sukumaran with a smile.
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