Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 9 (PTI): You may feel some difficulty to speak while wearing a mask but that small piece of cloth will 'speak' more in the upcoming local body elections in Kerala, the first to be held in the southern state adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The local body polls in the state would be held in three phases from December 8.
Cloth masks, with party symbols and messages requesting vote, are wooing voters as the campaign for the three-phased polls is catching up in the state.
As restrictionsare imposed on marches and mass gatherings and the number of people accompanying candidates for house visits is strictly regulated in the wake of the pandemic, various political parties are exploring novel ways to reach out to voters.
Besides social media platforms, masks have become one of the most sought-after campaign materials in the state.
As the date of election is impending, several printing presses are flooded with orders from candidates belonging to various political parties.
Thalassery-based CKP Printers, a leading service provider of printing services, has already come out with varieties of multi-colour masks including custom-made ones.
'We have already got orders for more than 500 masks.
Candidates from all parties are approaching us. As Thalassery is a Left bastion, the most number of candidates approaching us are from the Left Democratic Front,' Muhammad Faizal, the owner of CKP Printers, told P T I.
More orders were expected after the candidates lists of the United Democratic Front and BJP are announced, he said.
But, some candidates from the Congress and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), who are sure about their seats, called up and placed the orders,he added.
Multi-colour cotton masks, with the party symbol on one side and the photo of the candidate on the other side, have huge demand.
Masks in plain white cloth with the party symbol on one side and appeal for vote on the other side also have many takers.
He said Rs 28 is charged for each multi-colour mask.
'Besides masks, many candidates are demanding pocket- button-badge with party symbol and cloth keychains,' he added.
As flex banners are banned, many printers have come out with eco-friendly cloth banners and posters.
As the price is a bit high, the number of orders is comparatively limited, sources said.
Jagadish, a CPI(M) activist and an entrepreneur in the city who is involved in campaigning, saidthe mask is the most easily available thing to convert into a campaign material nowadays.
'As a mask is a must, no one can avoid it anyway. But, the voter cannot see the face of the candidate or recognise him as he wears the mask. So, if there is the photo of the candidate and the party symbol on the mask, the campaigning will be easy in this COVID-19 time,' he told P T I.
Unlike in the previous years, there are restrictions for the distributions for pamphlets and notices.
Only five people including the candidates are permitted for house visits.
'So, candidates and their followers have to explore novel ways. Masks and social media platforms are seemed to be the most sought-after tools in this election,' he said.
The local body polls in the state are expected to be a dress rehearsal before the Assembly polls next year.
While the first phase on December 8 will be held in five districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathnamthitta, Alappuzha and Idukki, the second will be on December 10 in Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Wayanad.
The third phase on December 14 will be in the remaining four districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod.
State Election Commissioner V Bhaskaran had said that the election would be conducted strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
The commission would provide all officials on poll duty with masks, sanitisers and gloves, he added.
An electorate of over 2.71 crore will exercise their franchise to elect representatives to 941 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 86 municipalities and six municipal corporations.PTI LGKSS PTI PTI