In November 2015, political hawks in Kerala were in for a surprise. In six out of nine seats in the local body polls in Idukki, Palakkad and Kollam, a hitherto alien political party had won. Neighbouring Tamil Nadu’s ruling party – the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – now had six councillors to boast of in Kerala.
Locals say the ostentatious display by the party piqued their curiosity in the run-up to polls. “We had never seen so much fanfare, so many cars and jeeps and flags and banners and whatnot,” said a resident of Peerumedu ward in Idukki district in the run-up to the local body polls last year. For the first time they were offered freebies too – an umbrella with a picture of Jayalalithaa on it. Such was the clamour that voters in the neighbouring wards began to ask their candidates why they did not receive such gifts.