It is a motley crowd — party workers on high adrenalin, petty shop owners with detached demeanour, a few young men with scepticism writ large on their face and, of course, a few home makers eyeing the goings-on through the windows, from the safety of their homes.
When Jose K. Mani, the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate from Kottayam, began the second lap of his road show after lunch break at Vallachira, an interior village junction in Kaduthuruthy Assembly segment, one of his strongholds, there is no hint as to what the constituency holds for the candidates on April 10.
Mr. Mani is frugal with his words. He thanks the small gathering before him for the faith they had reposed on him for the past five years, and seeks their blessings for another term to complete the works he had undertaken. The local MLA and former Minister Mons Joseph who accompanies the candidate however, makes a special effort to allay any fear left in the minds of the voters about the high-speed railway corridor.
The corner meetings for LDF candidate Mathew T. Thomas Janata Dal (Socialist) are marked by a more enthusiastic crowd, thanks to the organisational skills of the CPI(M) party apparatus, which oversees his campaign. At Pullarikkunnu in Kottayam Assembly segment, a homogenous crowd has already gathered by the time Mr. Thomas arrives.
The talk is as short as that of the UDF candidate though the plank is different. Mr. Thomas harps on his performance as Transport Minister in the V.S. Achuthanandan Ministry; stresses the need for transparency in political life and administration; refers to issues that are closer to everyday life such as fall in the price of natural rubber, the dismal plight of the paddy farmers and the grim situation in the farm sector.
Parallel to the campaigns of the big two, the NDA candidate Noble Mathew is also holding his roadside durbars. A Kerala Congress(M) man till less than a month ago, his stress is on the meaninglessness of the traditional coalitions and their inability to bring change.
Interestingly, all the three candidates put up by the main coalitions are dependent on the coalition leaders: Mr. Mathew on the BJP, Mr. Thomas on the CPI(M) and to a certain extend, Mr. Mani on the Congress, and this has impacted the respective campaigns.
In addition, eight others also hold their campaigns without the customary fanfare, most of them entering the fray much earlier than the major players.
James Joseph, the Independent seeks to focus on corruption. Another candidate who is in the fray is Ratheesh Perumal. However, one of the most keenly watched campaign is that of the Aam Aadmi Party’s Anil Aykara because of the novelty factor.
His campaign got the much-needed impetus with the visit of party bigwig Prashant Bhushan. Another important candidate among the minor players is Roy Arackal fielded by SDPI. With less than a week left for the big day, all candidates and their campaign managers are expected to change gears in the next few days to take the campaign to a crescendo.