Ground Report | Flamboyant PC George wobbly in Poonjar as UDF, LDF raid his home turf


P C George, the lone independent MLA in Kerala Legislative Assembly, is the magnet which attracts the spotlight to the electoral battle in Poonjar. Having won the assembly seat for seven times, George has become synonymous with Poonjar over the years.

His most impressive electoral show was in 2016, when he took on the major political fronts as an independent and emerged winner with a whopping margin of 27,821 votes.

Five years down the lane, as the state is set to go to the polls on April 6, George is facing his toughest battle in his home turf.

Congress's Tomy Kallani (UDF) and Kerala Congress (M)'s Sebastian Kulathunkal (LDF) are making valiant efforts to unsettle George in his den.

Both Kallani and Kulathunkal exude confidence that they would win comfortably.

Sebastian Kulathunkal during his campaign in Thidanadu.
Sebastian Kulathunkal during his campaign in Thidanadu. Photo: Manorama

While Kulathunkal, a former district panchayat member, is pinning his hopes on the performance of the LDF government, Kallani, a former district Congress chief, is meeting the voters with an intriguing motto – Make Poonjar Great Again.

Kallani's electoral race is historic because he is the first candidate to contest with the Congress's official symbol – the hand.

At his home in Parathode near Kanjirappally, Kallani is about to leave for the day's electioneering.

The soft-spoken Kallani tells Onmanorama George not only failed to bring any major development to the constituency but also ruined the secular atmosphere of the land.

Kerala Congress (M)'s Sebastian Kulathunkal (LDF), PC George, Congress's Tomy Kallani (UDF). Photos: Facebook
Kerala Congress (M)'s Sebastian Kulathunkal (LDF), PC George, Congress's Tomy Kallani (UDF). Photos: Facebook

He was referring to the communal overtones of George's campaign speeches and other controversial remarks.

“George is trying to exploit the communal feelings of the people of Poonjar for gaining a few votes. It's the most unfortunate thing we are witnessing in this election,” Kallani said.

On his vision to challenge the alleged polarising campaign by George, Kallani said, “I want to make Poonjar proud again. And I will never divide the people of Poonjar for votes no matter what happens.”

Tomi Kallani during his campaign in koottikkal.
Tomi Kallani during his campaign in Koottikkal. Photo: Manorama

While Kallani claims to be fighting from a moral high ground, he also reels out a slew of promises to the voters of Poonjar.

They include designating Poonjar as a taluk, a civil station in Poonjar, realisation of the Erumeli township project and development of tourist spots like Wagamon, Kurishumala and Marmala stream.

He also promises to implement the project, approved during the previous UDF regime, to pump water from Moolamattom reservoir to Meenachil River by a tunnel to find a permanent solution to the water woes of the constituency.

Flamboyant George

George is campaigning with a hat on his head. That's his election symbol. He was touring the Thidanadu panchayat on Wednesday. Accompanied by supporters on a number of bikes and cars, George goes for an election extravaganza, which his opponents term “all paid”.

George claims to have rolled out development projects worth Rs 700 crore in the past five years. Still he can't help but playing the 'son of the soil' card.

PC George meeting voters
PC George meeting voters during his election camnpaign. Photo: Facebook/PC George

The argument is that Poonjar need not elect someone from outside the constituency when George is there. The target seems to be Kallani, who spent most of his political career in and around Kottayam.

However, Kallani makes it a point to tell the voters that he was born and brought up in Poonjar and had his schooling and college life in the constituency.

Petta's hero-turned villain

In 2016, the Muslim population of Erattupetta had rallied behind George contributing a sizeable share of the votes he polled.

This time, the scene is entirely different. George has absolutely antagonised the religious community with some distasteful remarks.

The other day, he was booed away by the voters of Erattupetta during campaigning.

A furious George unleashed his rage at them in return and stopped campaigning in the area. Political wisdom says that he is eyeing to consolidate the Christian votes in favour of him this time.

“He is very inconsistent and opportunistic. He sides with one community or the other as per the situation and political climate. Remember, he had gone to the Assembly wearing a black shirt during the Sabarimala agitations in solidarity with the Hindu believers,” a voter at Koruthodu, who did not want to be named, said. Interestingly, he confessed that he is a Left supporter, who voted for George last time.

He made the confession soon after LDF candidate Sebastian Kulathunkal left the junction after his campaign visit.

Kulathunkal also lamented the lack of development in Poonjar and highlighted the need for the continuation of the LDF government. He also made a serious charge against George – the incumbent MLA has been trying to attack the LDF workers and trigger violence ahead of polls.

Undercurrents aplenty?

The Koruthodu voter's confession sort of corroborated the UDF's charge that a lot of LDF supporters had voted for George last time.

“Last time, George was all set to join the LDF and contesting as the front's candidate. He had ensured the support of a large section of LDF voters too. They voted for him even though his attempt to join the LDF did not succeed. This time it will not happen,” a local Congress worker at Thidanadu said.

His calculations did not end there. He said a section of CPM workers, who are averse to vote for the Kerala Congress (M), even though the party is an ally of the LDF, will support the UDF candidate.

He also said that the Muslim voters of Erattupetta are also likely to support the UDF this time. “They want to defeat P C George at any cost. So naturally they would vote for the other candidate who has a better chance of winning. Now, our campaign has gained huge momentum, especially after Rahul Gandhi's rally. We are able to send out a message that we are going to win,” he said.

However, at Koruthodu, a young voter said he would vote for George for sure. He said George would win even if his victory margin comes down to some 5,000 votes.

It was George's machismo that had influenced the young man. “Who would have reacted to the crowd of Erattupetta the way he did? Nobody but P C George,” he said. To our shock, he added that he was happy that there were not many people belonging to a particular community in his area. That's a dangerous sign. Not only to Poonjar, but to Kerala itself.

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