KV Jacob, President of the Kizhakkambalam panchayat, was the Communist Party of India’s local committee secretary for 11 years. He blames the present political class for the shift to the other side. “Those elected to public office have not been able to fulfill the promises they gave to the people during the electioneering. This makes them a laughing stock,” says Jacob as he sits down for an interview with BusinessLine on a Sunday afternoon, and after attending two weddings and tackling a road-repair dispute. Excerpts:

What made the politically-conscious people of Kizhakkambalam to vote for T20?

The electoral victory came at the end of two-and-a-half years of development work. People have seen and experienced what we could do. We carried out drinking water schemes, got the poor people’s houses rebuilt, provided free emergency healthcare, supplied groceries and vegetables at half the market price and brought a revolution in agriculture. Working-class women were the main beneficiaries and they motivated others to vote for us. .

In the election manifesto, T20 has promised to carry out 20 development projects; what is your plan of action?

We promised to the people that we would turn Kizhakkambalam into the best gram panchayat in the country. We are confident that we can do this. We have lined up projects that would cost ₹350 crore over five years. Some of the works are already on. For instance, 19 small drinking water schemes are ongoing. At the T20 shop, we are introducing more essential and consumer goods. And 1,000 women will get scooters at reduced prices in monthly instalments. CCTVs will soon be set up at key locations to check minor crimes.

How will you finance the projects?

The funding from government will cover only a fraction of the expenditure. We expect contributions from industrial houses, from T20’s fund-raising initiatives and of course, from Sabu Jacob’s personal funds.

It is said that the panchayat members are paid salaries by Kitex.

T20 pays a monthly honorarium of ₹15,000 to our councillors and ₹25,000 to me, as president. This is to help the councillors to spend all their time for the welfare of the people and discourage them from taking up other jobs. Councillors are on duty at the panchayat office or in the wards throughout the day. How can they do people’s work without an income?

As of now, T20 is only an informal collective. Do you plan to turn it into a political party?

Yes, it will become a political party. We have already started the work.

So, will it fight elections in other panchayats too?

Our focus is our own village. We have a lot of work to do here. A number of prosperous NRIs have approached us with funds to replicate our work in their villages.