Debating India


Double Jeopardy

Saturday 29 April 2006, by MENON*Jaya

Kollemcode (Kanyakumari), April 28 : Kollemcode can at best be described as a shabby fishing hamlet. But sandwiched between the blue sea and a sprawling burial ground, this village enjoys a rare privilege. Since it shares a border with Kerala, many families possess two ration cards - one issued by each state.

Adult members in the 100-odd families also vote in both the states. But it’s a double jeopardy of sorts, as it is not an easy job choosing candidates in the neighbouring states on ideological grounds.

While the Congress and the CPI(M) are at loggerheads in Pozhiyur, the two parties are allies in Kollemcode, on this side of the yellow-painted board declaring the border limits.

But the border ends with the board. There are no checkposts to monitor the flow of villagers across the states. In fact, the village playground is spread across both states.

Popular Rajnikant songs blare out from a loudspeaker in a house on the Kerala side. ??We enjoy Tamil songs more,’’ points out Antony, driving off in his autorickshaw from the Kerala side. His house falls within Kerala’s Parasala constituency. ??We have relatives in Tamil Nadu. So, our names are in the voters’ list there as well.’’

Though a bit puzzled, Gracey Antony played it safe this time. She wanted the Oommen Chandy government out, so on April 22 she voted for the CPI(M) in the first phase of Kerala elections. Now she is waiting for May 8, when she will again vote for the CPI(M), this time in Vilavancode constituency of Tamil Nadu. She claims her name figures in the voters’ list in both states.

Vijaya Mohanan, the Kollemcode panchayat president, canvassing votes for his CPI(M) candidate, John Joseph in Tamil Nadu says: ??There are many families who have ration cards in both states and hence vote twice. Their relatives stay on either side and their names are listed in the voters’ list in both the states.’’

In fact, Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, earlier part of Travancore, has largely dodged Dravidian ideologies, and has been more influenced by Kerala politics and culture. In fact, in the last four decades, the district’s seven constituencies have returned mostly Congress and CPI(M) candidates.

There is a constant flow of people on both sides. The Tamils in Kollemcode panchayat prefer to go to the government hospital in Thiruvananthapuram and work as coolies at construction sites in Kerala. From Thiruvanantapuram, there is always streams of people heading for the Vadacherry chanda (bazaar) in Nagercoil, 45 km away, near Kanyakumari, particularly during weddings. Similarly, the famous Kanyakumari Devi temple, 12 km from Nagercoil, is also a major attraction for devotees from Kerala.

See online : The Indian Express

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