God’s own election

April 16th, 2009

Last week I visited Thiruvananthapuram for three days. I landed without realizing that the Kerala was about to go to polls in the first phase of the general election. After staying in Mumbai for close to 15 years, I had forgotten how elections are fought the Mallu way. A summer shower had cooled the climate a bit but the heat of the election was simmering around me as I exited the airport. Huge hoardings and cut-outs of candidates welcomed me to the city. There were posters everywhere and corner meetings were on full swing. Slow moving ambassadors with gen-sets in the trunk and loud speakers on the roof blasted off election songs. Every small junction had fully decorated party offices and their very own loud speakers. Colourful  leaflets were being distributed and every one, from little children to great grand fathers with nothing better to do seemed to be participating.
At the family function that I attended people talked about the chances of Shashi Tharoor , the import from UN who is contesting under the Congress banner and the local veteran P.Ramachandran Nair, the CPI candidate. Newspapers were devoted to the election too with candidate profiles stretching across full pages. You could sense the tension in the air. ‘Shashi Tharoor is certain to become a minister if he wins’, thundered my father; ‘But he is an ‘American spy’ said his younger brother as they greeted each other after a long gap. ‘He can’t speak Malayalam properly’, said his sister. ‘So what, he has a ration card’, my mother chipped in.

BJP is yet to win a seat from Kerala and it does not look like they will this time too. Yet  you can’t miss the saffron presence – when I was a little boy Lotus was a flower seen in temple ponds and not on election posters.   
I know elections are colourful affairs in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and some other states but I don’t think you can match the intensity of Kerala. 

Voting would have come to an end as I publish this story and it would take couple of monsoons for the posters with smiling faces on them to peel off. But I think Kerala Tourism should invent ‘election tourism’ to showcase, arguably the most colourful democratic, multi party election held anywhere in the whole world.

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