Every election season brings a windfall to tour operators in Alappuzha. Not only is this central Kerala town a hub of the state's backwater tourism, but it is also a political hotspot.
The fact that it is the home town of senior leaders, such as defence minister AK Antony, Indian Overseas Affairs minister Vayalar Ravi, CPM veteran VS Acthuthanandan, the iron lady of Kerala politics KR Gowri and several other towering leaders and home of many historical political movements throws light on its political legacy.
Ever since the announcement of election dates, the mood has touched a feverish pitch and the town has become a beehive of activity. Political party workers haven't even spared the vast expanse of the Vembanad Lake and the several canals that criss-cross the region.
The water bodies are dotted with several motorboats, country rafts and canoes bedecked with party flags, festoons of posters, and fit with loudspeakers. Party workers use these to go from one settlement on the rim of the lake to another and in the Kuttanad paddy field, surrounding the lake, seeking votes for their candidates.
Such a unique spectacle cannot be seen in any other part of the world. On shore, the canvassing begins in the morning and goes on until late night. Streets, both in towns and villages, drown in the din of public meetings, incessant marches and announcement from loud speakers fitted on campaign vehicles.
Enterprising tour operators have been successfully marketing this vibrant show of the battle of the ballot in the state, which has been politically hyperactive since 2004. Tour operators say that tourists from countries like the US, Canada, UK and Germany are very keen to have a ring side view of the election process in the largest democratic polity. They look into the approach of the candidate, the mass participation and knowledge level of the people on poll issues.
"They wonder how so much of time and money can be spent for the elections. But they envy the involvement of the people in the process and their level of knowledge,'' said George Thomas, a leading tour operator in town.
Thomas is expecting business to be good. "We have already sent the package details to our counterpart abroad. Already, 20 foreign tourists are in town to watch the show. They will be here for two weeks, when campaign peaks," said Thomas.
Tomy Pulikkattil, who pioneered the election package, said that at least 100 to 150 tourists will reach the town for the poll tourism package this year. "With more operators offering the package, they add more menus, like taking the tourist to keenly contested constituencies in the state and introducing them to major candidates," said Tomy.