Lean and frail, she could be mistaken for a docile woman. But PK Jayalakshmi, 29, is a martial art exponent and a Congress candidate to boot.
Contesting from the tribal-dominated Mananthawady (northern Wayanad district), she is also a former state and university champion in archery.
A pick of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, she is one of the first woman graduates from her community, Kuruchiya, a tribal group known for its martial background.
“Traditionally we are born fighters. Like in archery I am more focused, to the point, in politics,” said Jayalakshmi, a product of Kannur University.
She was one among the 12-odd recruits of Gandhi, after months were spent on talent search among student and youth bodies.
“I was really shocked (pleasantly) when my name figured on the candidates’ list,” said Jayalakshmi, who’s taking on the CPI(M)’s sitting MLA KC Kunhiraman. A Youth Congress activist, she entered electoral fray in 2006 by becoming a member of the gram panchayat. Later she became panchayat chief, and hogged the limelight when her organisation bagged the national award for implementing National Rural Employment Scheme, bringing down the farmers’ suicides.
The Congress’s young brigade soon took note of this grassroots leader, who spends most of her time among the masses. When south Indian director Hariharan made a film on Pazhassi Raja, a king who died fighting the British, she and her sister were there to train the main actors in archery, kalari payattu (traditional martial art form of Kerala) and guerilla warfare.
Gandhi, who was on a two-day tour to the state, came all the way to Mananthawady (famous for its pepper, cardamom) to boost her morale. “Look she’s one among you. She will be an asset,” he said.
Close to 40,000 tribal voters play a crucial role here. And going by the current trends, it will be easy for her to hit the bullseye.