Despite a unique price support system implemented by the outfit, critics term membership card a mark of loyalty
Will a localised appeal built on providing essentials at highly subsidised prices and a revamped housing project at Kizhakkambalam, which launched the Anna Kitex-backed Twenty20 to power four panchayats in Ernakulam district, be enough to see it through in the Assembly elections?
The outfit is contesting from eight constituencies where squad work is done by scores of women, men, and children transported to these areas by bus from Kizhakkambalam.
Some like Sangeetha Madhu, who works with and campaigns for Twenty20, believe that the outfit’s victory in any constituency would mean that the “people of that area have won the lottery.”
“Sir [Sabu Jacob, businessman and chairman of Twenty20] means well,” says the resident of God’s Villa at Njaralloor, Kizhakkambalam, where 38 houses of a colony saw a makeover after Twenty20 won a majority in the Kizhakkambalam panchayat in 2015. “We were living in crumbling houses and relying on three public taps and two wells for water. Twenty20 had promised the people here that our homes would be rebuilt. After this new colony was inaugurated in 2018, our lifestyles have changed. There is no water scarcity now, and we have good homes,” Ms. Madhu says.
She also raises the benefit of groceries and other essentials at subsidised prices at a supermarket run by Twenty20. A 52-year-old who owns a grocery shop at Kizhakkambalam, who asked not to be identified, echoes Sangeetha’s views. “They [Twenty20] have made good roads. Essentials are cheap, and there is no waste of public money,” he says.
Ratheesh, an autorickshaw driver and resident of Kizhakkambalam, does not agree. “Only people with membership card can shop at the supermarket. Is that how a body that supposedly works for the welfare of the people should work?” he asks.
Asma Aliyar, panchayat member representing the Chelakulam ward in Kizhakkambalam, calls the card a mark of loyalty. “If you have the card, you are expected to obey them. Fraternising with people or even relatives of other political parties can mean that the membership card will be cancelled,” alleges Ms. Aliyar, the only non-Twenty20 member in the panchayat that has 19 seats.
UDF-backed candidates had won from the Chelakulam ward in 2015 and 2020, denying the outfit a victory in the ward where its garment unit is located. Ms. Aliyar alleges that Twenty20’s failure to win Chelakulam points to the persistent environmental pollution that the unit has been accused of causing for long.
A shop owner at Aikaranad, on condition of anonymity, says while the panchayat has been promised a supermarket similar to the one existing at Kizhakkambalam, there has been no word about it since the local body polls. There are others who think that the votes polled by the outfit, however meagre, will be crucial in swinging the outcome.
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