The decisive purpose of the ‘yatras’, irrespective of parties, is to raise funds for polls.

New Delhi: It is said that come election time in Kerala then it is also time for “yatras” from one end of the state to the other. All these years these were undertaken by the leaders of Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front. Between them they have shared power unfailingly every five years for the past fifty years. But this time the state will witness a third yatra, that of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. On paper, these yatras are considered an opportunity for those who lead the respective fronts to interact with their own supporters and the general public on what programmes their respective parties intend to undertake once voted to power. Traditionally all of them begin from the northern end of the state Kasaragod, bordering Karnataka, and end in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, bordering Tamil Nadu, in the south. For some strange reason it is never ever the other way around, perhaps the logic being the seat of power, the state secretariat, is in Thiruvananthapuram. The seat of justice, the High Court, is seated in Ernakulam in central Kerala. So far there is no record of any of these “yatras” pausing even for a minute in front of the High Court to pay obeisance to justice. After all, once you have power, who is bothered about justice! These “yatras”, modern day versions of “aswamedha” of the time of Kings and Emperors in our folklore, are of course meant to capture power. But the more decisive purpose of these “yatras”, irrespective of political parties, is to raise funds for elections. Generally people do contribute to all the parties. Whether the funds thus collected goes to the party coffers or to individual pockets is anybody’s guess.
This time UDF has taken the lead in “yatras”. Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, Congress’s chief minister aspirant Ramesh Chennithala’s 22-day-long ‘Aishwarya Kerala Yatra’ aimed at leading Kerala to wealth and prosperity, for some unknown reasons began on a sour note on February 1. A full page advertisement in party mouthpiece Veekshanam on 31 January carried an advertisement wishing ‘aadaranjalikal’ , which in Malayalam is generally used on occasions of death, instead of ‘aasamsakal’, meaning best wishes. Though it was hurriedly covered up as an error by a sub-editor, many consider it as a pointer to things ahead. To begin with, the party’s high command had put former chief minister, an ailing Oommen Chandy in charge of state elections. In normal circumstances it should have been Chennnithala who as opposition leader has been working hard at the ground level for the past four and a half years. Chandy, on the other hand, had been mostly away from the state as in charge of Congress affairs in Andhra Pradesh where under his leadership the party has been totally wiped out. Many saw the return of OC (as Oommen Chandy is referred to in private circles), who fifty years ago had revolted against the then state Congress leadership demanding opportunities for young blood, as a snub to RC (Ramesh Chennithala). That OC and RC are a toast to the people of a state that worships Bacchus is another matter altogether. Seventy-seven year-old Chandy, of course, made it clear that he was ready to take up “any responsibility the party bestows upon him”. Message was clear: Sixty-four year old Chennithala still has lots of time left. Whether Ramesh leads Kerala to prosperity or not, he is confident that by the time his yatra reaches Thiruvananthapuram on 23rd of this month, Kerala would have rung the death knell of the LDF government in the state. Well, hope is no one’s ‘monopoly’ nor has anyone got its ‘copyright’.
Next in line is the ruling LDF’s 14-day-long Kerala journey ‘Vikasana Munnetta Jatha’ highlighting developmental aspects under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the last four and a half years. It begins with one rally led by current state CPM secretary A Vijayaraghavan from Kasaragod on 13 th of this month. Simultaneously CPI’s Rajya Sabha MP will lead another jatha from Ernakulam. Both rallies will assemble in Thiruvananthapuram on 26th of this month for a final rally. As the ruling dispensation prepares for its rally, protests by unemployed youth are flaring up all over the state. Under scrutiny by a barrage of investigating agencies, right from CBI to NIA, some invited by the CM, some uninvited, the government now faces charges of nepotism in almost every of its departments. The main accusation is that instead of recruiting new hands from the state Public Service Commission list, the government is trying to make a large number of temporary employees permanent. The catch is that most of these casual labourers belong to party cadre. Moreover the government is rocked by some controversial appointments of spouses of young and upcoming party leaders to various universities in the state allegedly flouting all academic norms. At least one of the leaders,former MP from Palaghat M. B. Rajesh has openly come out in defence of his wife who has got a berth as an assistant professor in the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit in Kalady, birthplace of the Hindu seer. That academics have been highly politicised under communist rule is a known fact, but the government is adamant about its decisions refusing to even review even the contentious ones. So it is to be watched how the agitation takes its course in the coming days along with CPM’s development rally. As things stand, people can’t be blamed when they ask ‘Development for whom?’
The new entrant to the yatra brigade in the NDA, perhaps the most high-flying one since UP Chief Aditya Nath is scheduled to flag off the ‘Vijaya Yatra” from Kasaragod on the 21st of this month. The 14-day journey across the state will end with a rally in Thiruvananthapuram on 7 March.
Top leaders of the BJP, including the Prime Minister, are expected to attend the rally. But the fact is that NDA is only in name, there are hardly any other recognised political forces in the state in its fold. Hence it is considered a RSS-BJP show of strength. Led by state BJP president K Surendran,, the yatra will emphasise more on the achievement of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and its beneficiary, the state government and the people of Kerala. BJP’s main grouse is that Pinarayi Vijayan has stolen the credit for structural developments, mainly opening of two national highways, in the state from the very pocket of the Prime Minister. They point out the case of “essential items kit” supplied by the state government since the outbreak of Covid-19. While 75 per cent of the kit contains items provided by the Centre as aid, the state government has taken full credit for the same. Still BJP cannot make an impact in the state by focusing on the achievements of its government in Delhi alone. On the ground level issues like Sabarimala, love jihad, Islamic/Red terror, apathy towards the Christian community all are expected to find place right through the rally. The biggest challenge the state BJP faces is from its own dissenting leaders. A party which cracks down on dissenters across the country has failed to do so within its own organisation in the state. As they often say, ‘People are watching’.
The Chief Election Commissioner will be in the state next week. As the process is set to roll, the yatras will also wind its way through the state, flooding the roads with promises. Kerala and its people have seen it all. What is new is their decision this time. Wait and watch!