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Kottayam/Malappuram: Every day in Kerala is an education about its complex, fascinating socio-political milieu.

Wednesday marked my fifth day of reporting on the upcoming assembly elections, and it began in Kottayam’s Puthuppally constituency in central Kerala, home of two-term former CM Oommen Chandy. The Congress leader is fighting his 12th election from this seat, having held it without interruption since 1970.

Chandy’s humble home — ‘Karottu Vallakkalil’ — was buzzing with enthused party workers and curious onlookers, while the man himself was rushing back from a church ceremony for our scheduled interview.

The happiest person in the vicinity was my driving help Biju, who is also playing the roles of videographer and translator.

Biju with former Kerala CM Oommen Chandy | Photo: Fatima Khan | ThePrint

“I held the camera with so much respect this time, the respect came out of my heart,” Biju merrily said after the interview.

Also read: 12 hrs on road, tracking Assam’s Muslim vote & childhood memories — a reporter’s field day

Reporter’s bookends — veteran leader and young voters 

Kottayam, one of the few Christian-majority districts in the state, is home to several beautiful, architecturally splendid churches, some of which we had the opportunity to visit. Christians of all denominations live in the district, and the sheer number and diversity of churches is testament to this.

Next up on our itinerary was Malappuram, more than five hours away, to report on the most popular party of the region, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Our journey was less arduous than the others we had undertaken, because for once, we had managed to pack lunch for the road. The chicken roll was not just food for Biju; it was a relief.

By the time we reached Malappuram, dusk had started to descend, bringing with it a major predicament facing journalists in the small towns — hardly anyone is willing to speak to you after sunset because they want to pack up and go home, and it’s almost impossible to videograph decent quality interviews in the low light. Thankfully, we did manage to get some decent conversations in, and several young Muslims who were attending an IUML election meet talked about politics, their hopes from the parties, and their wishes from whoever runs the new government in Kerala.

It was the classic bookend to a reporter’s day covering an election — unpacking the complex history and legacy of a political veteran of over five decades in the morning, and finding out the aspirations of young, hopeful voters in the evening.

(Edited by Rachel John)

Also read: ‘Love jihad’ cases should be studied & addressed: Kerala Congress (M) chief on church view


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