BJP's Kerala chief K Surendran is determined to become a member of the Kerala Legislative Assembly. In the 2016 state polls, he had lost by a whisker. To avoid such a heartbreak he is contesting from two constituencies — Konni and Manjeshwaram — in this edition of the state poll for which voting will be on April 6.
Manorama's Unni K Warrier hit the BJP’s campaign trail in Konni with him.
Leaving Pathanamthitta town, the campaigners hit the road to Sabarimala. The route is familiar to the candidate, Surendran.
“I had been frequenting this route earlier in my political life. Police arrested me on my way to the Sabarimala temple, and took me to and fro through this route to several police stations and courts,” he said.
The car manoeuvered through the narrow, damaged road leading to the Kulathuraath Lakshamveedu Colony at Vallikkode. It stopped in front of a one-room-kitchen house that has a tarpaulin for an awning.
Surendran sat in the lone room, listening to its residents, Mohanan and Sudha. The candidate was to have his breakfast here. Sudha kept serving him idlies and sambar.
After breakfast, the BJP leader and his team walked towards the neighbouring houses. “They vote for our opponents,” someone in the crowd said. Surendran shrugged it off.
Most houses in the colony are old, with several of them requiring repairs. Roofs are broken and cement had started peeling off. Noticing the poor condition of the houses, Surendran told those accompanying him that the Centre has several projects for such homes.
“But the alternating LDF and UDF here have been cheating these poor people,” he said.
The car went past the elephant kraal at Konni. The kraal had an elephant named Surendran which was taken to Thiruvananthapuram for training, saying it would be returned soon. The animal is yet to reach back.
Candidate Surendran, back in Konni once again, is campaigning like a wild tusker. “Pinarayi Vijayan’s vengeance never ends. He will even decimate those party men who oppose him. We didn’t cross the limits even after he personally insulted us. Pinarayi is adamant about making women visit the Sabarimala temple," Surendran said referring to the Kerala chief minister.
BJP activists offered him a floral shower as he reached the venue of the next campaign meet in front of Padmanabha Vilasom NSS office near Trikkovil Temple. People braved the scorching sun and listened to the candidate.
“(CPI leader) Kanam Rajendran has said the affidavit on Sabarimala won’t be amended. It means they will make women visit Sabarimala. They want another bloodshed there," Surendran said in his three-minute speech.
The festival of the Trikkovil Temple has begun. With folded hands, Surendran greeted two women who were reading the Ramayana in front of the temple auditorium.
The motorcade caused a traffic block as it reached the next venue near the Government Lower Primary School at Thengumkavu. BJP had won this ward in the local body polls through a lucky draw.
Youngsters jostled with each other for shaking hands and clicking selfies with Surendran. For them, he is not merely a candidate, but a lead fighter as well.
Surendran has to complete the campaign in Konni in two days. He is contesting in Manjeshwaram also, and he should reach that constituency. BJP workers grew in strength as the motorcade arrived at the Vallikode market.
The NDA had topped Vallikode in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Surendran met the first BJP member from the locality, Narayana Pillai, and sought his blessings.
The loudspeakers attached to the pilot vehicle whipped up the excitement. The announcement likened Surendran to Lord Indra and projected him as one who had undergone imprisonment for safeguarding the beliefs of the devotees.
K S Harikrishnan, Surendran’s son who has completed engineering, is driving the car. Speaking about his family, Surendran said the CPM’s cyber goons have been targeting him for the past 10 years. He doesn’t care about them. “My party can handle them”.
In a rare but brief moment, Surendran ceases to be a candidate and becomes a doting father. “But it did hurt when they wrote nasty things about my daughter,” he said, looking out of the car’s window.