KOCHI: The electoral politics in Kizhakkambalam panchayat located on the outskirts of Ernakulam has become a thriller with a billionaire businessman entering the arena with the promise of placing the panchayat at the top in terms of social and economic development by 2020.
The 2020 project by Sabu M. Jacob, managing director of the Rs 512-crore Kitex Garments Ltd, has made the traditional arithmetic of local body elections irrelevant as a group with the name ‘Twenty 20’ is getting ready to contest in all the 19 divisions in the panchayat.
If the experiment succeeds, it would be the first of its kind in the state with a business tycoon taking political control of a village panchayat by combining modern management information system and money power.
Both the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPM-led Left Democratic Front are jittery over the entry of ‘2020’ into the electoral fray despite insisting that the politically wise population of Kizhakkambalam will not be swayed by the lure of money.
Elias Karipra, currently vice-president of Kizhakkambalam panchayat, said ‘2020’ will not pose any threat to the fortunes of the UDF.
‘The people in Kizhakkambalam know the history of the company and its owners. They will not support the 2020 project,” he said.
The Kitex Group launched the 2020 movement as the panchayat has taken strict measures against the company for causing severe ecological pollution in the area, he added.
“The Kitex group is trying to establish a feudal system of obedience with the power of money and it will not succeed in a democratic age,” said P.P. Baby, Kizhakkamablam local secretary of the CPM.
“Mr. Jacob says he wants to create a heaven in Kizhakkambalam and be the God there. But, the people will not accept such a claim,” he added. He also denied reports that many CPM cadres had switched loyalty to the 2020 movement.
Shijo Cherian, one of the coordinators of the 2020 movement, denied the charges levelled by the political opponents. “The movement is a well- planned campaign to bring all-round development to the panchayat. We have been engaged in this project for the past three years and Kitex Group along with several business groups in the area provided financial and other support,” he said.
A section of businessmen in the area earlier associated with the 2020 movement said they had snapped their links with it after Mr. Jacob made it a platform for implementing his personal agenda.
“The 2020 movement was initiated to implement welfare measures and not to take political control of a panchayat. Mr. Jacob is a good friend, but I don’t approve of his strategy of using the platform for political purposes,” said Mr G.K. George of GK Granites.
Despite the fierce opposition, the leaders of 2020 are going ahead with the election preparations. The candidates will be announced at a convention in Kizhakkamabalam on Sunday.