The state of Kerala elects a new legislature in May this year. 2016 being an election year, there is a deep sense of urgency among political parties. It is as if the slumbering Kumbhakarna* epitomized by the political parties in Kerala has suddenly awoke and is very thirsty and hungry for food which is the voter’s brain!
It is interesting to see all the major political parties in the state come up with political yatras in the run up to the elections. Every major party wants to gain as much ground as possible and gather intelligence about the perceptions of the voters in the state. There are 140 constituencies and most of these yatras cover all the constituencies. The leaders at the forefront of these yatras are supposed to exert themselves by sweating and toiling but the truth is they rarely break a sweat what with travelling in cushy air-conditioned coaches and having food to the ultimate satisfaction of their tummies. Not to mention the prodigious amount of liquor that is expected to flow!
The ruling alliance – United Democratic Front (UDF), is apparently leaving no stone unturned to ensure its yatras are successful. They aim to bring to the eyes and ears of the voters, the ‘achievements’ of the government. Isn’t it pathetic that the government is reaching out to the public in the very last year of their rule? Apparently, they are not yet done ‘ruling’ and wants to ‘serve’ the people of the state for another five years. Senior leaders of the alliance including Ministers in the Government have been embroiled in a series of controversies so much that the government is literally in a soup.
The major opposition alliance – Left Democratic Front (LDF), is not far behind when it comes to yatras. They have touched upon the theme of developed Kerala. Only a few months ago, the Left parties were in a complete disarray what with their popularity waning owing to the old fashioned schools of thought as well as a lack of true leadership material. But they are hanging on to the sliver of hope generated by their good performance in the recently concluded elections to the local self-government bodies. It’s a thin thread on which they are hanging their hopes on and they are planning to showcase unity and solidarity among their cadres as a way to reach out and capture the imagination of the public and translate that into votes. This is a movement that harks back on the past as a way to enter the future. Hope they are not consigned to the pages of history once the elections are concluded and the votes are counted.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also pretty energetic this time around. They are also into the yatras bandwagon under the leadership of their recently anointed state head. Their plan is to bring a whiff of fresh air in alliance with the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam) and snatch as much votes as they can from the UDF and LDF and thereby rise to a position where they could dictate proceedings in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital. Hope the fresh air would not be stale by the time it reaches its destination!
Fascinatingly, all the yatras that have so far been scheduled are proposed to start from Kasaragod, which is the northernmost district in the state and end at Thiruvananthapuram, which besides being the state capital is also the southernmost district. I wonder why no party thought of doing it the other way round – south to north would have been amusing!
It speaks a lot about the political situation in the state that parties can resort to such silly yatras which is nothing more than an eyewash. What can the poor voter do? These yatras are just a start. The formal campaigning for the elections involves as much mudslinging as can be witnessed during these yatras. Unfortunately, like the leaders of the political parties who travel downhill for the yatras, it is likely to be a downhill journey for the state as well, no matter who rules for the next five years.
God help us!
*Kumbhakarna – a character in the Indian epic Ramayana, who slept an awful lot.