The magical spell of the social media might be very much here, but when it comes to reaching out to the large population of technology have nots out there, political parties in even a highly literate State like Kerala are falling back on familiar faces and voices.
Two faces that stand out among the campaigners for the CPI(M) and the Congress, fighting a pitched battle in 20 seats scheduled to go to the polls April 10, are nonagenarian CPI(M) leader V.S. Achuthanandan and 73-year-old Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
Both leaders enjoy a kind of iconic status among their supporters and are among a few leaders in the State capable of reaching beyond their immediate sphere of influence.
Their parties and alliances are using their public appeal to the hilt, forcing them to address three to four election rallies a day across the State. Their styles are as different as chalk and cheese.
Mr. Achuthanandan is adept at playing to the gallery, with trademark tonal variations.
Mr. Antony is far more subdued in his articulation, often speaking in whispers to his audience. Despite their contrasting styles, both have been eliciting spontaneous response from their audiences.
The normally media-shy Mr. Antony has been patience personified, making himself available for interviews for every news channel and publication, besides throwing his considerable weight behind the United Democratic Front candidates.
At every campaign rally, his primary focus is on the CPI(M), predicting that the party would be a marginal force after the elections.
His assertion that the CPI(M) would have to support the Congress to form the next government has already drawn scorn from CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, who has sought to know how the Defence Minister could say such things when the Congress would not even secure 100 seats.
On his home turf, however, Mr. Antony may have already achieved what he set out to do: to keep the Congress house united and assuage ruffled feathers and give a touch of reassurance to different sections of the electorate.
Mr. Achuthanandan was looking jaded and seemed to be walking into the sunset until the Lok Sabha elections were announced.
Once the announcement came, he stunned his supporters and detractors alike by turning the clock back, performing a political pirouette on the sensational T.P. Chandrasekharan murder row on which he had placed the entire culpability at the door of the party’s State leadership, and hitting the campaign trail with gusto.
By the time he completes his election campaign on April 7, he would have addressed around 50 meetings in all but one or two constituencies in the State, drawing impressive crowds everywhere.
“Achuthanandan is his party’s best crowd puller. He was a leader in the old mould till 2001 and then the change came and he personally benefited a lot from it. He is capable of some rabble-rousing as well, as we have seen from his speeches over the past few days, and he still continues to get some spontaneous response from party cadres unlike many of his party colleagues and the CPI(M) is likely to benefit from it,” says B.R.P. Bhaskar, veteran journalist and political observer.