In Kuttanad, it’s difficult not to think of the lines from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner– Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.Andappan takes tourists across the rivers, lakes and canals in a “kettuvallam (houseboat)”, but gets potable water for himself and his family just just twice a week for three-four hours. At other times “we use this water,” he says pointing to the backwaters.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Shaji B, a crew member on a luxury tourist boat, is disillusioned with LDF, which he has been supporting, and does not want to vote for the UDF after the solar scam. BDJS candidate Subhash Vasu’s promise to ensure drinking water in every household has given him hope.Both Andappan and Shaji belong to the ezhava (OBC) community, which the BJP and its ally BDJS are trying to wean away from the Left. While Shaji admitted the BJP-led alliance had little chance of coming to power, he said it would at least “weaken” the UDF and LDF which had been ruling the state so far.”Like Delhiites voted for Kejriwal, people here too want a change,” he said.LDF’s MLA Thomas Chandy, the rich Kuwait-based NRI businessman from Sharad Pawar’s NCP, refutes that the entire vote of the ezhavas, the single largest community in the region, will go to the BDJS, the party floated by SNDP’s Vellapally Natesan. He said 70-75 per cent of the community voted for LDF and that the committed Left vote will not move to BDJS.Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be holding five rallies in Kerala next month, of which one is expected to be in Kuttanad, where the BDJS has put up its general secretary. The other four rallies will be in constituencies where BJP candidates are in the fray.The ezhavas in Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, have been mostly toddy-tappers and farmers. But, with the place becoming one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the state, for several of its inhabitants livelihoods have started revolving around tourism. With scenic paddy fields, serene backwaters and four rivers–Pampa, Achencoil, Manimala and Meenachil– which flow into the Vembanad Lake, it’s water that is both boon and agony of Kuttanad.Chandy, a two-time MLA, said the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation had visited Kuttanad and suggested remedial measures for agrarian distress, but the UDF government in the state failed to implement it. He said a centrally sponsored project had been implemented for drinking water, but pipelines had got damaged as people started using fertilizers. “Here the problem is there is no water if you dig,” said Chandy.While some people say Chandy has money power but has not done anything for Kuttanad’s development, others claim that he never hesitated from helping the needy. The UDF has fielded Jacob Abraham of Kerala Congress (M), who could gain from the thirst for change in Kuttanad, which falls in Allapuzha district,AV George, a businessman who conceptualised “Avees”, a producer of rice powder from the region, said people here know only agriculture, and that the BDJS getting Ezhava vote will help UDF. Besides Kuttanad, around a dozen other constituencies in the state have a predominant Ezhava vote.
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