Polictics

‘Both of us are not politicians. We were forced to enter politics to counter corruption that is looting the country.’

Twenty20, Kerala’s nascent political party, has formed an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party which is looking to increase its footprint nationally after a comprehensive victory in Punjab.

Twenty20 is the corporate social responsibility component of Kitex, the second largest manufacturer of children’s garments in the world.

Kitex ships almost a million pieces every day to the American market in the zero to 24 months infant category. Its products can be found across children’s stores, including Walmart and Target.

Twenty20 won the Kizhakkambalam panchayat election in 2015 and transformed it into a model corporate village.

“When we took over, this panchayat had a debt of Rs 39 lakhs. Five years later, after achieving all welfare projects, we deposited a surplus of Rs 13 crore 57 lakhs in the bank,” says Sabu Jacob, Kitex MD and coordinator Twenty20.

The party presently governs four panchayats in Ernakulum district and contested eight seats in the 2021 Kerala assembly election.

What attracted you to the politics of AAP and Arvind Kejriwal?

Both Twenty20 and AAP have a similar mindset. 95% of our views are similar. We are both fighting against corruption, working for people’s welfare and the development of the country.

When I compare Mr Kejriwal to other leaders, I see him as a person from a civil services background who was forced to enter politics. Similarly, I am a businessman. Both of us are not politicians. We were forced to enter politics to counter corruption that is looting the country.

Mr Kejriwal has taken measures to improve people’s lives by providing them free water and electricity. Similarly, we have brought in food security, infrastructure, water connections, housing for the people of Kerala.

Who approached first? Was it you or AAP?

It was a mutual decision. Many people have visited Kizhakkambalam, our model village to study the measures we have implemented. Kamal Hassan (the movie star-politician) also visited in 2018.

In 2018, a team from AAP had visited us for two days. We had discussions at that time and remained in touch.

Subsequently, a lot of people in Kerala started talking about AAP after the party won the Punjab election. Several Malayalis are associated with AAP and many people from Kerala live in Delhi. I got a lot of calls from them at various levels and hence we decided to meet.

We had discussions and our alliance was a mutual decision. A lot of people in Kerala were also keen about this association.

What are the expectations of your organisation from AAP and their expectations from your organisation?

We have common expectations — welfare of the people, a corruption-free environment and development of the state. We are unlike traditional political parties who fight about the number of seats, power and position.

We have never discussed seats before or after forming the alliance and I don’t think there will be a problem going forward.

In Kerala, even if we contest 140 seats in the next assembly election, we will not think in terms of their candidates or mine. The candidates will be our candidates.

Some political observers feel Mr Kejriwal’s politics is a milder version of the BJP’s politics. He is accused of following Hindutva Lite. Does that not make you uncomfortable, especially in Kerala where Hindutva hasn’t been able to make inroads?

The Opposition rakes up issues pertaining to religion and caste whenever a leader or party starts making a mark in politics.

I have been in politics for long, but have never spoken about caste or politics. All other parties are trying to get votes from different religions by dividing people. I don’t want to do that kind of politics and neither does Mr Kejriwal.

Our only belief is in one caste — the human cause.

We do not believe in terms of Hindu, Christian or Muslim.

Do you think Mr Kejriwal can attract voters in a well-informed state like Kerala?

People want change in Kerala. They are forced to vote either for the LDF (Left Democratic Front) or UDF (United Democratic Front) because they have no other choice. This has been happening for the last 40 years.

Twenty20 has a very good reputation in Kerala. It started as a small party with few panchayats and municipal areas. The coming together of a national party AAP with a regional party Twenty20 definitely makes a difference. For us LDF, UDF, NDA are all the same.

Mr Kejriwal’s welfare politics revolves around populist proclamations of free electricity, free water and improved schools etc.
In the context of Kerala which tops other states in all other social indicators, will these issues have an appeal?

The electricity rates in Kerala are among the highest in the country, yet it is running a loss.

There is no free transport or any concession. The minimum fare is Rs 10. The state transport corporation is making a loss of Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) every day.

The metro is only 22 kilometres in length and is running a loss of Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) every day. Similarly, the water department is operating at a loss.

The government itself is running a loss and increasing the debt by Rs 165 crores-Rs 170 crores (Rs 1.65 billion-Rs 1.7 billion) every day. How long will they survive like this?

This is going to be another Sri Lanka or worse. The revenue is decreasing every day and expenditure is shooting up.

This is happening for the last 40 years. The situation is very bad and corruption is at its peak.

You have had run-ins with the Marxist government. Do you feel your organisation’s progress makes them worried? What made you so angry that you have taken your mega investment project to Telangana?

That’s a totally separate issue. My political and personal views are different and I don’t want to mix the two.

We contested 8 seats in the last assembly election. We are just a small party amongst three national fronts — the LDF, UDF and NDA. Together, these three fronts include 24 political parties. Yet, we polled 14.6 percentage of votes.

They realised that this party was a threat and maybe that was the reason that the LDF government started raiding my industries after the results. Maybe their intention is to destroy my political entry by attacking my business.

News Courtesy : rediff.com