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Kerala poll outcome puts cold water on Twenty20’s bigger ambitions

The party’s experiment in local body elections worked well but that wasn’t enough to compete in state elections where local elements are only a part of the deciding factors.

May 02, 2021 / 08:00 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

If Kerala state assembly election 2021 was a 'test' for Kitex group-backed Twenty 20 party, it has sort of failed to pass that test. Twenty20, probably the first corporate-backed political party in India, came with the distinction of a party with a difference, to provide an alternative to the Kerala voters focusing on the development agenda. But the party failed to open even a single account in any of the constituencies it contested in the Ernakulam district. In most of the constituencies, the party failed to come in the top three positions, except perhaps in Kunnathunadu. This was the first time Twenty20 fielding its candidates in the state elections.

In all, Twenty20 fielded eight candidates and had formed an advisory panel including prominent businessman Kochouseph Chittilappally, actor Sreenivasan and many other prominent personalities. The movement grabbed headlines even in national media. There were discussions on the possible impact Twenty20 can show in the assembly elections. Many members of the advisory board, including Sreenivasan, had joined the panel after the party declared its plan to contest in state elections.

Originally, Twenty20 came to power in Kizhakkambalam Panchayath in Kochi in 2015, and in the 2020 local polls, the party bagged three more panchayaths. Subsequently, the party has announced its plan to contest in the upcoming state polls. With the likes of Sreenivasan and Chittilappally coming on board, Twenty20 strengthened its team and hoped to make its presence in the state politics. But, the key members of the party are a tad disappointed with the outcome. “We lost all seats…sad,” told Chittilappally to Moneycontrol responding to the election results.

Where did the experiment go wrong? The party’s experiment in local body elections worked well but that wasn’t enough to compete in state elections where local elements are only a part of the deciding factors. More importantly, the left wave was, too, strong even for  bigger parties in UDF (united democratic front) and National Democratic Front (NDA).

Twenty20 didn’t stand a chance in this political environment. Twenty20 needed a clear political narrative. It didn't have any. The voters couldn't connect with the party's line of thinking. Beyond the promise of giving an alternative to the Kerala politics, Twenty20 didn’t have a political ideology to present to the voters. What worked in local body polls (better roads, infrastructure) wasn’t enough when facing a larger electoral contest. The confidence derived from small victories in local body elections wasn't alone adequate for a bigger battle.

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In an interview with Moneycontrol in March, 2021, Sreenivasan had said that this election was a test for Twenty20. “Only after we understand and assess how many voters support this movement in Ernakulam, we will plan to expand further to other parts of the state,” Sreenivasan said.

The poll outcome has put cold water on the corporate-backed political party's future ambitions. What now? Twenty 20 will have to re-work the political strategy, if at all it did have any, if the young political outfit wants to grow its presence in the state in future years. But, Twenty20 party insiders haven’t lost hope. “If you see the results, in some of these constituencies, we have bagged votes more than the BJP. That itself is an achievement,” said a party insider who didn’t want to be named. It's back to the drawing board for Twenty20, perhaps for a bigger match.
Dinesh Unnikrishnan
first published: May 2, 2021 08:00 pm

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