Munmi Shaji is literally on her toes these days. When News18 contacted her for an interview she was on her door-to-door election campaign in ward no. 11 in Kannur, Kerala. Though her oriental features and accented Malayalam make her stand out, the girl from Assam is confident of receiving love and acceptance from the people of Iritty panchayat for the December 14 local body elections in Kerala.
“My family back in Lakhimpur of Assam supports the Congress, but I am contesting on a BJP ticket. My husband is a BJP worker in Kannur and I am involved in the local RSS body. I am inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiatives and BJP’s schemes and policies for the poor in Kerala. During my door-to-door campaign, I have witnessed that the people have accepted me as their daughter-in-law. I have acquired good command over Malayalam during these seven years and this is helping me to connect with my voters,” says Munmi Shaji, also known as Munmi Gogoi.
Back in Lakhimpur, Assam, Munmi never had any inclination towards politics. Destiny, however, had other plans for the easy-going girl. It was a phone cross-connection seven years ago that changed her life completely.
“It was a call on my phone from a person asking for a local boy who was working in Kerala that introduced me to Shaji. I told him that the number is not of the person he was looking for,” she says. “However, the phone calls continued and soon we were in a relationship. The courtship went on for a year and then Shaji’s family arrived in Lakhimpur and took me to Kannur. We got married in a temple. At that time, I could neither understand nor speak Malayalam.”
Blessed with two daughters, Munmi today is more a Keralite than Assamese, though she misses her home which she has not visited for the past six years.
“My mother-in-law has been very supportive. Both the daughters stay with her as I go for campaigning early in the morning and return late. She takes care of the home and my family. Shaji too is working hard with me,” says Munmi.
This is the first election to be held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state. A total of 1.29 crore male voters, 1.45 crore women, and 282 transgender persons will exercise their franchise. The polls will be held in 21,865 wards for 1,199 local bodies, including 941 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 86 municipal councils, and six municipal corporations.
“I am proud of my sister who, being a girl from Assam, is contesting elections in Kerala. She had the leadership qualities since her childhood which reflected in her sporting activities. I have not been to her place since her marriage but plan to go soon. It’s quite far from here,” says Gaurav Gogoi, brother of Munmi.
Though Munmi has adapted herself to the life and customs of Kerala, yet the local river fishes back in her hometown is what she misses the most. “I will go to my parents this Bohag Bihu which is on the 14th of April and then I will have my fill of local fishes,” says Munmi.
(With inputs from Sreeni Alakode, News18 Kerala)