Hypocrisy is alien to the people of Idukki. Naturally, the voters here speak their minds without masking their feelings. They welcome the candidates with warmth, and there are no tall promises either.
The majority of voters are farmers or farmhands, and agrarian issues decide the voting pattern, apart from personal relations with the voters.
The two prime contestants in the fray in the hilly constituency for next month's Kerala Legislative Assembly elections are familiar faces. The candidate of the third major political combine is new to the terrain but has made several friends through her work as a leader of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP).
As the election day approaches the three candidates are now in a hurry to individually meet the maximum number of voters.
The campaign trail is getting hotter with each passing day. Within minutes of Roshy Augustine of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) leaving a voter's residence, Francis George of the United Democratic Front (UDF) steps in. Both know the voters for a long period.
Both the candidates remind the voter of the previous election. In 2016 also, both the men were in the fray, but with a difference: George was then with the LDF, and Roshy sought votes for the UDF.
George is now with veteran leader PJ Joseph of the Kerala Congress, while Roshy's Kerala Congress (Mani) has joined the LDF camp. Along with the poll symbol of 'Two Leaves,' Roshy's campaign posters have a generous splash of white and red colours. The UDF's posters have prominently displayed the Indian tricolour.
Posters of NDA candidate Sangeetha Vishwanathan are yet to be seen. She has the task of familiarising herself to the voters as she hails from Trichur district.
Roshy team sports different look
Roshy Augustine's campaign team looks different than it was in the previous years. The entire contingent had sported spotless white khadi dress previously, the DYFI and CPM activists accompanying Roshy are clad in different colours. He gives the impression that he knows all voters closely as if they had met even the previous evening.
Roshy spent about 10 minutes with students returning from a school at Kudayathur. The candidate and his entourage went to the Malankara reservoir for a brief rest. They remind each other of their schedule for the day. All the while, the candidate's mobile phone keeps ringing, and he attends to each call.
Idukki's own Francis
Francis George began his campaign from the protest site at an asphalt plant at Maniyarankudi. The local residents are leading the stir against the plant.
George is familiar with the area. "Idukki made me what I am now. I became active in politics to find solutions to the people here. They won't ditch me. The tar plant may be a local issue, but the government has no answers to the problem. Each vote I get will be the reflection of the people against this issue," George says.
George walked into a small hotel for a cup of black tea. Seeing the candidate taking a seat next to her, Thankamma, who was also sipping tea, raised both her arms in blessing. She promised him her vote as well.
Curiosity over a new face
Housewives at Kanjiyaar are curious to know more about NDA's candidate Adv Sangeetha Vishwanathan. They enquire about her family. "I am from Thrissur, now living at Cheruthoni," she answers before assuring that she will continue in the area if the BDA wins.
Sangeetha is a black belt in karate and it shows. Those accompanying the candidate often fail to catch up with her. While meeting women voters, she requests special consideration.
"Helmet is the symbol. Safety is important. I assure women's safety," she says before moving on.