The largest association of shopkeepers in the country, the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti (KVVES), says it will have its representative in the Assembly this time.

The association has decided to contest the elections either on its own or with support from the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front.

“I can tell you this: we will open our account in the Assembly in the upcoming election,” T Nazirudheen, long-time President of KVVES, told BusinessLine . “And, we are going to field at least one candidate in each of the 14 districts in the State.”

The KVVES, he said, was in talks with the Left Democratic Front. “If they support us, we will support them too.” He claimed that the KVVES, which had a membership base of over 7 lakh retailers and small traders, as well as a chain of establishments and institutions, was a force to reckon with in most of the constituencies.

“Seven lakh members means seven lakh families and their friends, relatives and associates of these families.” The samiti had its attention focussed on Thiruvambadi constituency in Kozhikode district.

Earlier support to UDF Nazirudheen said the samiti had supported the Congress-led UDF in the 2011 Assembly elections. “The UDF government let us down badly.”

He alleged that the government’s Commercial Taxes Department (CTD) was persecuting shopkeepers in the name of recovering value added tax.

Last week, a small trader in Alappuzha had committed suicide, leaving a suicide note in which he mentioned he was forced to end his life because of the unduly huge tax arrears demanded by taxmen.

Nazirudheen claimed that small traders were paying tens of thousands of crores in taxes each year but were being treated badly by the CTD.

The State government had also ignored several requests made by the trading community. “We had supported the UDF in the last elections, hoping its government would take a sympathetic view of our demands,” he noted. “Instead, they are now driving shopkeepers towards suicide.”