A staunch ‘independent’ takes on fronts

Shaji George wearing a PPE kit, submitting his nomination for the Puttumanoor ward of Vadavucode-Puthencruz grama panchayat.  

Shaji George’s philosophy about the functioning of local self-government bodies is quite simple; be free of all political and communal pulls and pressures.

Translated into electoral parlance, that means contesting as an independent and that is what the 48-year-old political science graduate with a postgraduate diploma in journalism has been doing for a decade now.

Mr. George emerged victorious in his maiden electoral battle from his home ward of Vadayambathumala in Vadavucode-Puthencruz grama panchayat in 2010 when he beat both major fronts. He shifted to ward 6, Rajashi, when that ward got reserved in 2015. He tied votes with the LDF and UDF candidates and lost out in a flip of the coin.

“It was an achievement since I was away from my home turf without the assured votes of my family and friends,” said Mr. George, who drawing from that confidence, has thrown his hat into the ring from ward 11, Puttumanoor, this time.

He drew quite a few eyeballs by turning up in a Personal Protection Equipment kit to file his nomination. This, he said, was a safeguard against potential infection of electoral officials as he had been visiting households for campaigning besides being a reminder of having to co-exist with the virus. He counts on his achievements from his first, and hitherto sole stint as a ward member to romp home yet again. Issue of job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to all Scheduled Caste households in 2012, facilitating 168 welfare pensions and construction of five roads figure prominently among his report card.

“I have the acceptance of at least 80% of the electorate in the ward and even if mainstream political parties were to prise out 10-15% of the voters, I will still manage a handsome victory,” Mr. George claimed.

He believes that having functioned as a representative of the people of the entire panchayat rather than as a mere ward member in the true spirit of the Panchayati Raj Act, would stand him in good stead despite having to contest from different wards. “Being identified with political or communal outfits makes one subservient to their many unjust demands, which ultimately defeats the very purpose of being a local body representative expected to rise above politics, caste, and creed,” said Mr. Shaji, who has been running a financial institution in Puthencruz town for over two decades.

Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 5:07:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/a-staunch-independent-takes-on-fronts/article33135907.ece

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