As the first drops of rain touch the parched earth, one experiences petrichor—the unique smell of the earth, as she embraces a bit of the heavens and holds it dearly to her bosom. Much has been written about the Monsoons in India—our music, literature and arts have been richly embellished with the rhythm of Monsoons. It has inspired poets and musicians, writers and artists.
Like all auspicious beginnings, a Vedic prayer where the rain is seen as blessing seems like a perfect start:
If Yogendra Yadav’s desire to see the death of the Congress party had dismayed many in India, a wishful whisper from an ardent Communist follower, to see the complete annihilation of the Communist Party of India (M), had shocked me no end too. As we stood on the pavement with the traffic blaring around us, I was unsure if I had heard it right. With unbelieving rounded eyes, I strained my ears to catch every word, he seemed to nod that I heard him correct: “The Communist Party is no longer what it was,” came another sad whisper. “It’s only a shadow of its former self.”
Though pre-poll surveys indicated that the Left parties had little hope in Kerala in the Lok Sabha elections, I had totally dismissed this conversation from my mind till the results started pouring in. The Left in Kerala was completely routed way more than what their worst enemies would have imagined.
An unmistakable message from the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in India is the emergence of a cosmopolitan Hindu identity cutting across the seemingly insurmountable barriers of caste and regional diversities. This is a phenomenon that has evaded the many waves of Hindu resurgence in the past, and its impact on Indian politics in the coming days would be substantial. The politics of secularism is vacating the centre stage, leaving the scene to the rising Hindutva crescendo.
However, it is assumed in political circles that Kerala successfully bucked the dominant national trend, resisting the onslaught of the Hindutva forces. Kerala definitely threw up a very interesting outcome, vastly different from the national scenario. A tally of 19 seats for the Congress-led United Democratic Front and, a solitary win for the CPI (M) with the BJP winning none, it does look like a resounding victory for secular forces.
Towards the fag end of the election campaign in Kerala, an advertisement sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) played out on all channels. The fifth in a series of ads for the Kerala BJP, it had the familiar setting of a tea shop with a small group of youth talking politics. One of the young men is seen professing his newfound love for the BJP to his Modi-fied friend but seems unsure if he should go on and vote for the BJP. “Even if I were to vote for the BJP, would they win from Kerala?”
For a long time, many pro-BJP folks in Kerala have faced the same predicament. A vote for the BJP meant a waste of a vote as BJP candidates contested ritually for third place. However, the 2016 assembly elections saw the contests becoming triangular in a dozen constituencies with the votes polled by the BJP (or their ally BDJS) deciding the winner and loser in many more seats. This was never the case earlier and it presaged a brighter future for the BJP after decades of toil.
A young man, in Kerala’s capital, tells me he hates Dr Shashi Tharoor—the sitting MP of Thiruvananthapuram— he says candidly his vote will not be wasted on Dr Tharoor. But then he reveals a secret that’s been infuriating him: “My wife absolutely adores him. She will vote for him.” He continues, “Soon after our marriage, a couple of years back, we happened to meet Shashi Tharoor at a function and she was absolutely thrilled. I had to remind her that it’d been only 48 hours since we had tied the knot.” He then turns to me and asks me who I would vote for? The young man cannot fathom why women would want to vote for Tharoor, and, I leave him still puzzled as to why he cannot influence his wife.
Though families in Kerala have traditionally voted together, it’s unsure how the 1.34 crore women of the 2.61 total electorate of Kerala will vote in 2019. Though there are 7.8 lakh more women voters than men in Kerala, 12 lakh women voters are missing from Kerala’s electoral list, according to Prannoy Roy and Dorab R. Sopariwala in The Verdict. This is the highest among the medium-sized states. If those missing voters were on the list, the difference of voters between female and male would have swelled taking the figure to 20 lakhs— the size of one and half constituencies in Kerala.
There are enough indications that women will vote unpredictably this time in certain pockets and, like the young couple in Thiruvananthapuram—divide the house. Will the woman voter be swayed by the intellect and charm of Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram or the filmy persona of the BJP candidate in Thrissur, Suresh Gopi? This will have to be closely examined on counting day. However, all major parties have been wooing the women voters in different ways—targeting women’s groups and speaking to them about their issues— trying to influence them. Poll watchers and journalists say emphatically that the participation of women at rallies and programs have increased tremendously this time around. True, even in conservative constituencies like Malappuram, women are listening carefully to political speeches.
With the Star India Private Limited, a company which owns almost all regional channels in South India, including Asianet, strengthening its stand on the rate which it levies on each channel, the cable TV operators in Kerala have found themselves in a baffling situation.
This time, the Star group has come up with a 100 per cent hike in rates. Each year, the companies which own the channels increase rate for the paid channels. In Kerala, a total of 300-320 channels are available from different owners. Among them a great number of channels belong to the paid category.
Interestingly, the Star group has not levied the same increment on all operators. Instead it had asked only Kerala Vision, one of the leading cable operators in the State, to ally with the new rates.
The office of the Deputy Directorate of Education in Palakkad is found to have caught up in a mess after the Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC) filed a complaint against the office on charges of corruption in the advice letter sent to the PSC candidate.
It is suspected that the DDE office in Palakkad changed the number of posts for Junior Language Teacher (Arabic) from one to four, for which the advice memo was sent in May 2011. The Public Service Commission noticed the discrepancy when the appointed candidate’s documents were sent from the DDE office for verification at the PSC office.
Reportedly, the office of Deputy Directorate of Education has also delayed the process of transferring the documents of the appointed candidate for verification at the PSC office. Noticing a spate of malpractices, the PSC had strengthened the service verification in 2011. According to this, soon after the office concerned receives the advice letter from the PSC for the appointment of the candidate, the Government office is obliged to send back the documents of the candidate for verification.
Even though the electronic data interchange system of the customs department at Vallarpadam Transhipment Terminal, Kochi, has again met with a glitch, the exporters in Kerala seem to be not much affected.
It has not made a difference to several major products including seafood, rubber, coir and spices, according to the respective exporting company officials, though the reason for this vary from one company to the other.
It is the second time this month, the online data entry system which deals with filing of the shipping bills of the containers engaged in export and the bill of entry of the containers involved in import, stopped working. The IT department officials at the Vallarpadam container terminal declined to comment on the issue. It is informed that the system got damaged on Wednesday afternoon and has not been rectified yet. A couple of weeks ago, the system had stopped working for several days together.
While public life at the national capital and in Haryana has almost come to a grinding halt owing to the violence perpetrated by supporters of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, ‘God’s own country’ is in the mood of retrospection. A CBI special court had found the self-styled ‘Godman’ guilty of raping two followers in his Ashram in 2002.
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s visits to Kerala and his varied connection with the high-profile business community in the State have always been celebrated and had triggered multiple reactions.
In January 2015, the Kerala Government had refused to provide ‘Z’ category security for the Dera Sacha Sauda leader during his visit to the State. He had arrived in Kerala in connection with his real estate business in the State and for sightseeing. The State Government at that time had informed the Union Ministry that the security protection could be provided only on the basis of payment for such ‘private visits’. Since there was no reciprocal arrangement between Haryana and Kerala with respect to the security cover, the State had asked the former to reimburse Rs.2 lakh spent for providing ‘Z’ category protection to the spiritual head.