This is the final edition of Onmanorama's weekly election bulletin - Kerala Poll Buzz - which was launched on February 14. During the past eight weeks, we touched upon plenty of election issues and provided you with analytical pieces, curated stories, ground reports, video stories, social media buzz and political cartoons from Kerala, which will go to polls on April 6. Hope you enjoyed reading the bulletin. Keep visiting onmanorama.com for all the latest election news.
The Big Story: Election Commission bans ‘grand finale’ gathering
The culmination of the month-long election campaign in Kerala on April 4 will be bereft of the usual glitz, thanks to the Election Commission’s decision to ban the crowd gatherings in the wake of COVID-19 surge.
Election campaigns used to end with much fanfare in Kerala 48 hours before the polling. The event is known as ‘Kottikkalasam’ in Malayalam, meaning grand finale.
Political parties of all hues find it as an opportunity to show their strength. Huge crowds assemble at important roads in the assembly constituencies. Face-painted party workers wave huge flags accompanied by high-pitched slogans and high-decibel music, while the candidates appear in specially-decorated open cars escorted by hundreds of motor vehicles.
This has been the decades-long practice in Kerala. However, political parties never bothered to address the troubles faced by the common people during the event. The road shows used to block vehicle movements, leaving thousands of people stranded on the roads. Even ambulance services ferrying critically ill patients were disrupted.
The Election Commission reportedly took the decision to ban crowd gathering based on a request from State’s Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena.
The decision is crucial as it comes a few days after health experts warned of a second wave of COVID-19 in Kerala after the election. They say chances of disease spread are high in Kerala because the State has a large number of uninfected persons.
So political parties should implement the ban in letter and spirit, in the best interests of the society.
We should remember that Kerala had paid a heavy price for not implementing a similar ban on ‘grand finale’ for the local body elections in December 2020. Health experts had cited this negligence as one of the reasons for the surge in COVID-19 cases in December and January.
Political parties should realise that the show of strength would not fetch them even a single additional vote. What they will reap is the benefits of their month-long election campaigns. Spending huge money on unnecessary glitzy shows will cause noise pollution, spread of COVID and disrupt the lives of common people.
Ground stories, analyses, interviews and video stories from Onmanorama reporters
• TA Ameerudheen’s ground report from Thrissur where CPI’s P Balachandran, Congress’s Padmaja Venugopal and BJP’s Suresh Gopi are engaged in tough three-way fight
• R Ayyappan writes about how a group of Sri Lankan refugees transformed into a solid CPI vote bank in Kulathupuzha in Kollam district
• R Ayyappan files this report from Konni, which is witnessing intense three-way battle among CPM’s K U Jenish Kumar, Congress’s Robin Peter and BJP’s K Surendran.
• TA Ameerudheen files this report from Thrithala where publicity glitz and AKG controversy hog limelight in tough M B Rajesh and V T Balram fight
Video analyses of key constituencies
Nemom - Ajish Jimmy George
Konni - Ajish Jimmy George
Tripunithura - Ajish Jimmy George
Palakkad - Sruthi Menon
Thrithala - Ajish Jimmy George
Thirussur - Sruthi Menon
Manjeswaram - Ajish Jimmy George
Curated Poll Stories
• Shut out from campaign materials elsewhere, VS finds prominent spot in Malampuzha hoardings
• Why does Modi's Kerala visit hint at a last-minute change of BJP strategy
• UDF will decide its Chief Minister after April 6 polls: AK Antony
• High Court to Kerala govt's rescue, gives all-clear for rice distribution
• 'UDF to win Guruvayur, Thalassery,' Suresh Gopi embarrasses BJP
• More evidence of bogus entries on electoral roll
• Kerala polls: Rajnath Singh, Pinarayi Vijayan spar over implementation of CAA