The newly formed Twenty20-Aam Aadmi Party alliance in Kerala is set to announce its stance on the May 31 Thrikkakara assembly bypoll on Sunday. All the major political formations in the poll fray are eagerly waiting to hear what Twenty20 supremo Sabu M Jacob has to advise his followers, who constitute a solid 10 per cent of voters in Thrikkakara going by the results of the 2021 assembly election results.
Both the ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) are hoping to grab a share of the votes the corporate-backed party had polled when it contested against both of them in the previous elections. The careful statements by the leaders of both the fronts, sweeping under the carpet their previous harsh criticism of the local party, show their desperation to woo the support of the new alliance.
The evident political message embedded in this desperation means that Jacob and his Twenty20 have already won the battle for Thrikkakara even without fielding a candidate.
It seems the bypoll necessitated by the death of Congress legislator P T Thomas has turned out to be an occasion for Jacob to seek revenge against the major fronts who, he believes, have made survival difficult for him and his company in Kerala.
He wanted to make the bypoll yet another opportunity to show his strength or play spoilsport to the chances of the major fronts. Hence he, somewhat prematurely, announced that a combine of his Twenty20 and AAP would be fielding a candidate in Thrikkakara. It was even before the alliance was announced and he had to back off the move after the AAP said it was not interested in fighting a largely insignificant bypoll. Twenty20 also parroted the reasons cited by the AAP not to contest the bypoll. This Jacob cut a sorry figure even as speculations started flying around about where the Twenty20's 10 per cent votes would go this time.
However, the best part in Jacob's bypoll drama was yet to unfold. He made the tenth anniversary of his party a show of strength indeed in which AAP supremo announced the formation of the fourth front in Kerala — the People's Welfare Alliance. It is estimated that 50,000-odd people attended the rally held at Kizhakkambalam, the headquarters of Jacob's Kitex Group and Twenty20.
Twenty20 is essentially a corporate-backed party which is often accused of using its promoter's corporate social responsibility funds to make political gains in the name of welfare. Both the UDF and the LDF have raised a series of allegations against it in the past in terms of its way of functioning and its ideology or lack of one.
How biggies humour fledgling outfit
However, facing the first bypoll in the second Pinarayi Vijayan government's term, all those allegations have been swept aside. Congress leaders including KPCC president K Sudhakaran have publicly demanded the support of the Twenty20, while CPM state secretariat member M Swaraj went to the extend of saying the newly formed alliance was ideologically leaned towards the Left front.
He reasoned that the Twenty20-AAP combine's anti-corruption stance and the encouragement of professionals coming to politics were in tune with the Left front's stances. The LDF has fielded noted cardiologist Dr Jo Joseph in the bypoll against Congress' Uma Thomas.
The CPM also ditched its Kunnathunad MLA P V Sreenijin who snubbed Jacob in a Facebook post after the latter sought an apology from him for the alleged witch-hunt against the Kitex Group. Top CPM leader and Industries Minister P Rajeev rubbished Sreenijin's stance as an individual's not as that of the party.
What does Jacob hint?
Jacob has been highly critical of the LDF government of late, especially after a series of raids at his company that led to a major controversy with the group calling off a multi-crore project it had proposed to start in Kerala.
He has been vocally slamming the Left government's aggressive push for the SilverLine semi high-speed rail project.
The murder of Deepu, a Twenty20 worker at Kizhakkambalam allegedly by CPM men, has also provoked him. His repeated statements against the SilverLine project and political murders are interpreted as a call to vote against the CPM.
However, it is to be seen what would be the official stance of his alliance.
Predicament of LDF, UDF
Both the LDF and UDF can't afford to say no to his support. Jacob's decision to ally with Arvind Kejriwal has also proved to be a smart move as neither the Congress nor the CPM would want to provoke the Delhi chief minister unnecessarily considering the national political scenario.
The AAP's popularity has seen a sudden rise across the country with its stunning win in Punjab also. The party could be on its way to a major opposition force against the BJP in the national politics if it can repeat its impressive performance in some of the upcoming state polls too.
For the time being, Jacob has won in creating a perception in which his party looks a key player in the electoral politics of Ernakulam district where it had scored an aggregate 14 per cent votes from eight constituencies in the 2021 assembly polls. That's nothing short of a win for him, at least till the election results are out.