In the 2015 local body elections, Kizhakkambalam grama panchayat in Ernakulam district sprang a surprise by choosing Twenty20, a charity outfit floated by a corporate company, over all political parties. And taking a cue from Kizhakkambalam, a group of dissidents have formed Twenty25, a new non-political collective in Poruvazhy grama panchayat in Kollam.
“All political parties have vested interests and Twenty25 is basically a collective with a single objective — sustainable and comprehensive development. A majority of the residents are aware of the Kizhakkambalam model and the public response has been very positive even from the initial rounds,” says M. Suresh, one of the founders and executive secretary of Twenty25. At present, four candidates of the Twenty25 have submitted nominations and the collective plans to field candidates in all 18 wards.
Mr. Suresh says the decision was taken after seeing the resentment and indignation of the residents over the non-performance of previous councils. “We have seen the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (LDF) alternating in power for decades, but there is no commendable feat when it comes to the overall development of the panchayat. Apart from spending the Plan fund on routine affairs, they have failed to bring in any change. Nine wards in the panchayat have been facing severe drinking water shortage for years and both the fronts could not address this issue so far.”
The LDF has nine, BJP has four, and Social Democratic Party of India has two seats in the outgoing 18-member panchayat. Others include two Independent candidates and one from the Congress.
Dissidents from all parties
While the core group of Twenty25 included Communist Party of India (Marxist) dissidents who distanced themselves from the party over the years, now it has representation from ex-activists belonging to all fronts along with persons who are not affiliated to any political outfits.
“I was an active member of the CPI(M) and vice president of the panchayat in 2005-10, but I had to sever all ties with the party nearly a decade ago owing to ideological differences. Initially, we were a group of ten, all former members of the CPI(M) who had left the party to mark our protest against its stands on various occasions. But after we started collecting opinion of the public, indignant members of the UDF and the Bharatiya Janata Party also joined us. Since our collective challenges all other political outfits, our candidates will not have allegiance to any party,” he says.
Meanwhile, the LDF leadership feels the collective can pose no serious threat to the front and it will be impossible to replicate a Kizhakkambalam in Kollam. “This is just a childish manoeuvre of certain people to settle some personal scores. The panchayat has seen large-scale development during the past five years and the governance has been efficient and corruption-free. Voters are aware of this and they will completely neglect this new outfit,” says Bineesh, outgoing vice president of the panchayat.