Ground Report | A tonsured head takes on machismo in Ettumanoor poll tussle


Lathika Subhash is fighting a lone battle. With her shaven head, which symbolises her protest against what she terms male chauvinist attitude of the Congress, she is hoping to win the April 6 assembly polls in Kerala.

Her modest house at Kumaranalloor, which used to function more like a party office, misses the buzz of political activity nowadays.

She doesn't have the support of the Congress party machinery. Still she clings on to hope.

Lathika entered the poll fray as an independent after her name did not figure in the list of Congress candidates.

She had been trying to get the Congress ticket to contest from Ettumanoor, her home constituency.

However, the UDF allotted the seat to ally Kerala Congress led by P J Joseph, leaving Lathika depressed. She rebelled.

Lathika shocked the party leadership by tonsuring her head in front of the Congress headquarters soon after the party's candidates were announced. She also quit as the state Mahila Congress' president.

Ground Report | A tonsured head takes on machismo in Ettumanoor poll tussle
Lathika Subhash gets her head tonsured in front of the KPCC office on March 14, 2021. PTI

Triangular battle

Lathika's entry into the poll fray has made the Ettumanoor contest a triangular battle. The LDF has fielded senior CPM leader V N Vasavan, while Prince Lukose is the UDF candidate.

Vasavan is fighting to defend the party's seat, represented by Suresh Kurup for the past 10 years.

Prince, meanwhile, hopes to wrest the seat which is a traditional UDF stronghold.

Political observers attribute Kurup's victory to factors outside party support.

Kurup used to enjoy support from voters across party lines – he was also a darling of the dominant Nair community.

Ground Report | A tonsured head takes on machismo in Ettumanoor poll tussle
Prince Lukose with KPCC chief Mullappally Ramachandran and Congress leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan.

An easy assessment is that Vasavan might not be able to pull off the kind of support Kurup used to get. However, the Lathika rebellion in the UDF camp has changed the political equations infusing fresh energy into the LDF camp.

"In the Hindu customs, head tonsuring is associated with the final rites of someone. Lathika Subhash's protest marks the end of the UDF. The LDF can win the Ettumanoor seat maybe with a record margin," Vasavan told a gathering of youth at Ettumanoor on Thursday.

The LDF calculation is that Lathika can split the UDF votes vertically.

"A portion of the traditional Congress votes, especially from women, would now go to Lathika. This would mean an easy win for Vasavan," a CPM source said. The CPM managers are also upbeat about the lead they got in the local body elections.

Ground Report | A tonsured head takes on machismo in Ettumanoor poll tussle
LDF candidate V N Vasavan during his campaign.

The UDF camp, however, doesn't buy that argument. They don't give Lathika the importance the rival camp claims she has.

"Lathika's unusual protest has in fact angered the Congress workers in Ettumanoor. She would have got some support if she had not shaved her head in protest, which embarrassed the party," a Congress source said.

UDF candidate Prince Lukose said the CPM was behind Lathika's rebellion.

"CPM workers are putting up posters for Lathika. She doesn't have the support of any local leader of the Congress. Only a few who were ousted from the party and those who left the party after being denied seats in the local body polls are with her," he said.

Ground Report | A tonsured head takes on machismo in Ettumanoor poll tussle
Lathika Subhash is being slammed by Congress supporters on social media who call her a betrayer.

He said infighting was rampant within the CPM and exuded confidence that it would turn in his favour.

"There's a strong resentment within the CPM for not giving Kurup one more chance. Last time, the CPM's campaign was that Kurup would be made a minister, which did not happen. Nor could he complete any major development projects due to the infighting within the party," he said.

Lathika admits that she doesn't have the support of the party's local leadership.

However, she is pinning her hopes on the personal relationship she has maintained across the constituency, where she was born and brought up.

"I know Ettumanoor like the palm of my hand. My personal contacts are my political investment," she said.

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