On Kerala Piravi Day, November 1, Awake Trivandrum floated a new party — Thiruvananthapuram Vikasana Munnettam (TVM) — raising a pro-development angle. Awake Trivandrum is a collective of pro-development organisations, professional organisations, Vyapara Vyavasayi organisations, alumni organisations and various other organisations. The party says that it will be fielding its candidates in the upcoming local body election in the city.
According to TVM spokesperson SN Raghuchandran, Awake Trivandrum and their party are a Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce (TCC) initiative. A lack of development in the city is the chief reason for the formation of Awake, he says. “None of the political parties have worked towards Thiruvananthapuram’s development. The parties seem to turn a blind eye when it comes to the capital city’s development. Why are the youth moving out of the city in droves? It is because the city lacks job opportunities,” he added.
Raghuchandran, who is the president of the Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce, notes that cities tend to develop and flourish around ports. “It took a lot of pushing for the Vizhinjam project to take off. However, it moved at a snail’s pace due to protests stemming from varied political reasons. Awake believes that development should not be at the cost of politics. Tamil Nadu's DMK and AIDMK may be political enemies, but when it comes to their state’s development, they stand together.”
The current government’s stand against the handing of Trivandrum International Airport to Adani Group proved to be the last straw. It became the trigger for the formation of Awake, with various organisations coming together against the government.
“Despite being the capital, we lack proper air connectivity. The city residents deserve an airport that offers a world-class facility and can attract strong air connectivity. Poor air connectivity has been a deterrent in the development of Thiruvananthapuram as multi-national companies think twice about setting up shop,” Raghuchandran adds.
Only organisations are permitted in to Awake. The TCC President mentioned that they were conscious in their decision to bring organisations and not individuals into Awake. They now have around 75 organisations in Awake.
Taking note of the fact that there are “no godfathers for Thiruvananthapuram” and as a result, there is “no one to aid in the city’s development”, Awake decided to form TVM to contest in the upcoming local body election. However, there are certain conditions. “We will field a candidate only if the candidates nominated by other parties do not meet our set of requirements. We are looking for people who are devoted to the development of the city. TVM intends to field youngsters with good educational qualifications and is aware of local problems. We want people who will work for the progress of the city,” says Raghuchandran, adding that TVM aims to create a “pro-development vote bank in all wards” for the election.
The party has received massive support from industrialists, entrepreneurs, technocrats, and think tanks who hail from the capital. G Vijayaraghavan, Founding CEO of Technopark and former Member of Kerala State Planning Board, and Tony Thomas, global tech leader and former CIO of Nissan are few to name.
Such an idea isn’t new in Kerala. In 2015, the election results from Kizhakkambalam panchayat in Ernakulam surprised many. Twenty20 Kizhakkambalam, a corporate social responsibility initiative of the Anna-Kitex group of companies swept the election. It was perhaps for the first time that a corporate house directly entered the electoral arena in India. The candidates of Twenty20 won 17 out of the 19 wards and two of the three block panchayat seats they had contested in.
Formed in 2013, Twenty20 was launched to turn Kizhakkambalam into a model village. Five years later, Twenty20 still has dedicated followers. Twenty20 has already finalised a list from which the candidates for the 21 wards in the panchayat will be selected. WhatsApp groups formed for each ward has active discussions on the issue they face. Taking inspiration from the success of Twenty20 is the fishing hamlet of Chellanam in Kochi, who set up Chellanam Twenty2, and V4Kochi, a socio-political organisation comprising of politically charged Kochiites. Both have already decided to test the waters by contesting in the upcoming local body elections.