There was no dearth of posters and flags of major fronts as one entered the coastal panchayat of Chellanam, which is part of the Kochi Assembly constituency, on the polling day.
Yet, it is Twenty20, sponsored by Anna Kitex which seems to hold centrestage in this idyllic village seemingly on account of its ability to play serious spoilsport with the prospects of major parties.
“Both the Left and the Right have been in power for decades, and still we have to wade through the seawater that seeps into our homes during high tide with no seawall to stop it,” fumed Kunjachan, a fisherman, without explicitly revealing his affinity while emerging out after casting his vote.
Standing outside the polling booth at St. Mary’s High School at Chellanam, Jomy, a 53-year-old photographer, said the outfit could poll anywhere between 7,000 and 8,000 votes. “While it is seen as more damaging to the UDF, it is a fact that the LDF was not spared either during the last local body polls when Twenty20 bagged eight wards,” he said.
At the political party booth set up right outside Leo English Medium Public School at South Chellanam, a stone’s throw away from the border with Alappuzha district, UDF activists shot down the influence of Twenty20 and pitched the battle as one between the UDF and LDF.
“Both the LDF and UDF will concede a few votes to Twenty20, but they will not decide the outcome,” said Tomy, a Congress activist. His fellow party activist Preman instead drew attention to the alleged failure of sitting MLA and LDF candidate K.J. Maxy in addressing drinking water shortage, accusing him of being responsible for the worsening problem.
Tony Chammany, UDF candidate in Kochi, discounted predictions that Twenty20 might hamper his prospects in the coastal panchayat of Chellanam. “We have focussed on that aspect and educated voters not to fall for it. That challenge remains neutralised,” he said.
Nirmala, a housewife emerging after voting, offered him some solace, asking why would one waste vote for a party that is unlikely to win.
However, Twenty20 sources will have none of it and claimed a clean sweep in Chellanam bagging over 10,000 votes going by its vote share of around 8,000 in the local body polls.