When the Twenty20, the apolitical corporate-backed charity outfit, burst on the scene at the Kizhakkambalam grama panchayat during the last local body elections, mainstream political parties were quick to write its obit. But that proved premature as the nascent outfit emerged the giant-slaying David and swept to power in the 19-member panchayat.
Five years down the line, Twenty20 has expanded its vista and has fielded 92 candidates in the region. From being an electoral player in just Kizhakkambalam, it is now attempting to broaden its sphere of influence to four adjacent panchayats.
Apart from contesting all 19 wards in Kizhakkambalam, it has fielded candidates in all 19 wards in the Mazhuvannoor grama panchayat and all 14 wards in the Aikkaranadu grama panchayat, and 11 out of 23 wards and 16 out 18 wards in the Vengola and Kunnathunadu grama panchayats. Besides, it will contest in 11 block panchayat wards and two district panchayat wards in the region. The selection of panchayats and wards has been based on a study and contiguity factor.
While refusing to be drawn into a prediction about the electoral outcome, Sabu M. Jacob, businessman and chief mentor of the Twenty20, instead, threw up statistics of the outfit’s two-month membership drive in the four new panchayats it has now fielded candidates.
"About 91% of the people in Aikkaranadu, 90% in Mazhuvannoor, 89% in Kunnathunadu, and 87% people in Vengola panchayat have taken our membership so far, which is more than 84.50% of the people who are our members in Kizhakkambalam. Why would all these people take our membership if they don't want us to be part of the governance," he said.
However, the outfit is not offering freebies like essential items at heavily discounted prices as being done through its food security market in Kizhakkamabalam. Unlike its maiden electoral battle when it came up with a detailed election manifesto like the other parties, the Twenty20, this time around, has chosen to go to the public with a simple one-line promise of peace, happiness, and security, which, in its assessment, automatically assures all-round development.