The Congress party has asked former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to lead from the front so that the Left Democratic Front government could be ousted in the Assembly election. He is well aware that one needs the support of the masses to lead so he continues his interactions with the public. His formal and informal mass contact programmes are so popular and talked about that they have become now a part of the Malayali lore.
One such was witnessed at Konni in Pathanamthitta the other day. Oommen Chandy arrived at a public meeting after a 2km road-show that had started from Thannithode Moozhi. Congress MPs Adoor Prakash and Anto Antony along with the assembly election candidate Robin Peter waited for the veteran Congress leader at Moozhi.
Earlier, Chandy had set aside two hours for a press meet at the DCC office in Pathanamthitta. But without any delay, Oommen Chandy arrived at the public meet at Thannithode by 4 pm. As he was about to enter the open jeep, a hand extended out of the bus parked nearby. Chandy shook hands with an endearing smile.
Flanked by 50-odd two-wheelers, Chandy entered the venue to a rousing reception. Crackers were burst and tricolour balloons flew up into the air.
The BJP counts Konni as an A-class constituency, meaning one where its candidate has a chance to win. But contrary to the crowd's perception, Chandy did not touch upon the Sabarimala temple issue at this place which is not far from the shrine. But his opening statement hit the bull's eye: “This election is a do-or-die battle for the UDF. Need to win it. But the victory is not Congress' concern. It is the need of Kerala. The country's need."
Then he touched upon the gold smuggling case, corruption in the Life Mission project, and the backdoor appointments that made the PSC a mute spectator. He then took up the Walayar issue on the death of two teen girls and the pursuit of justice by their mother.
"If a case had been filed and the accused arrested after the death of the eldest girl at least the younger child would have been amidst us alive. Despite the court's strong criticisms, the Pinarayi government did not punish the erring officers but gave them promotions instead. The girls' mother is holding a big rally against this, for justice. But only the Chief Minister does not seem to understand this,” he alleged.
"They claimed if the LDF were to come to power, everything would be set right,” Chandy said, adding sarcastically that now almost everything was fixed. “If given another chance, it would be impossible to live in Kerala," Chandy asserted.
He left the dais by 5 pm and went straight to Kumbazha and from there to Vadasserikkara.
The next day began with a road-show at 11 am from the office of the Congress block committee at Parumala after a delay of one hour.
Along with two-wheelers and open jeeps, tractors also joined the roadshow. The symbol of the UDF candidate Kunjukoshy Paul in Thiruvalla is that of a farmer driving a tractor. The road-show travelled through Theveri and Niranam areas to reach Kadapra, which was 15km away, in over 1.5 hours.
The road-show was cut short for a press conference that was hastily arranged. And then the convoy went straight to Pandalam.
The crowd had been waiting for him at the Nanak Convention Centre in Pandalam for more than 1.5 hours.
"This is the era of surveys. PR agencies are tasked with conducting surveys. The survey findings claim that the LDF government would return to power. Do not try to frighten us with all this. We know the public. And the UDF's manifesto is the will of the people. Congress will do what it says, will only say what it does,” the veteran leader declared.
As the applause rang through the auditorium, the Congress leader delved into the UDF manifesto in detail. DCC president Babu George gave a gentle reminder about the time constraints. The next programme was at the Scheduled Caste colony at Changeli. Here, Chandy spoke about the previous UDF government starting a Medical College under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Department in Kerala, the first such institution even in the country.
"Several people asked about the need for a medical college when the SC-ST category has 10 per cent reservation. But I said that was not enough. When the results were out after the completion of the course, 70 of the 100 MBBS degree-holders were from the SC-ST category. If it had been just the reservation, there would have been only 10 doctors," he explained.
Knowing the pulse of the people, Oommen Chandy raised multiple issues in a single day. Apart from the driver and the candidate, six others would also join the veteran leader in the small space of the Innova car as he devises several strategies. During all this hectic campaigning, his menu includes only hot water, fruits, and coconut water.
Like this, he zigzags through constituencies across various districts.
On Sunday, he was in Idukki and returned by 10 pm to his native place at Puthuppally, where he took part in two family meets and went to the house of a bereaved family. After all this, he reached Pathanamthitta on Monday.
On Tuesday he accompanied former Congress President Rahul Gandhi for the latter's road-show in his own Puthupally constituency.
In the midst of the campaign trail, Oommen Chandy had to pacify a few dissidents. Former Pathanamthitta DCC president P Mohanraj, who announces resignation from the Congress, was brought back by Chandy. Chandy also pacified M V Gopinathan in Palakkad, Ramani P Nair in Thiruvananthapuram and resolved the issues in the Irikkur constituency.