Battle For Mount Kenya Vote:  Two DP Nominees Hit the Ground Running

Martha Karua

Raila Odinga’s choice of Martha Karua as his running mate has seen public opinion surge in his favour well beyond DP Ruto’s ratings, with Odinga polling at 39 per cent in his favour against Ruto’s 28 per cent

By The Weekly Vision Online

The picking of deputies from the Mt. Kenya region by the two leading Presidential candidates has automatically transformed the region into a major battleground in the hunt for the presidential vote.

Votes from the region may determine who is sworn as the country’s 5th President after the August 9th, 2022 general elections to succeed the outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta at the expiry of his two five-year terms in office.

Raila Odinga’s choice of NARC leader Martha Karua from Kirinyaga County is a historic move which may see the country get its first woman Deputy President. She is one of the few Kenyan women who have been on the ballot contesting for the Presidency and a top political leader from the region. Her new role dramatically changes the high stakes of the Presidential vote in Mt. Kenya.

Rigathi Gachagua

Their nominations have massively stirred the Mt Kenya region into a frenzy of political campaigns as the two main candidates battle to win the hearts of the voters. Raila’s choice of Martha Karua as his running mate has seen public opinion surge in his favour well beyond DP Ruto’s ratings, with Odinga polling at 39 per cent in his favour against Ruto’s 28 per cent. The move by DP Ruto to pick Rigathi Gachagua from Nyeri County as his running mate is also telling in the sense that he, the DP has rebelled against his boss who hails from the region, whether the move translates into votes is a question we can only wait and see after August 9th.

The most critical question now is who between Mr Gachgua and Ms Karua is capable of galvanizing the region’s voters to turn out in large numbers and ensure that their respectful Presidential candidates march to the State House? Who of them can effectively influence voters in all the Mt. Kenya counties to come to their side? Between the two who is the most popular DP nominee amongst voters in these counties? Above all who can be implicitly trusted by the Mt. Kenya billionaires to protect their business and economic interests?

Already reports from the ground show that the duo has hit the ground running with a forceful vengeance, campaigning for their Presidential candidates even before their principals join them on the ground to woe voters. Of the two running mates, who can have a powerful influence on women voters from the region and the rest of the country since women and youths comprise the largest majority of registered voters?

Mr Ruto’s team is downplaying the impact of Ms Karua on the voters, saying she will not be effective under Mr Odinga while selling Mr Gachagua as a defender of the region’s interests and trumpeting the bottom-up economic model as the cure for joblessness”

A political analyst from the region who requested not to be named said: “Itineraries of both teams have had to be rearranged to ensure maximum coverage of the region while avoiding clashing events. Wherever Azimio goes, Kenya Kwanza follows thereafter and vice versa. Aspirants and lawmakers are on speed dial from the Presidential candidates to mobilise voters and ensure rallies go on without heckling.”

He continued: “Campaign planners have had to go back to their diaries and draft new itineraries that keep changing by the hour, keeping mobilisers on toes to ensure each stopover has crowds to be addressed and the messaging is coordinated. Mr Ruto’s team is downplaying the impact of Ms Karua on the voters, saying she will not be effective under Mr Odinga while selling Mr Gachagua as a defender of the region’s interests and trumpeting the bottom-up economic model as the cure for joblessness.”

 The analyst said that on the other hand, Azimio is marketing its ticket as a safe pair of hands that will free the country from poverty, and corruption while selling policies like universal health coverage and the Shs. 6,000 for the poorest families as promised by Mr Odinga. They also say the Ruto-Gachagua ticket cannot be trusted because of corruption allegations. For the last four days, both teams have pitched camp in the region with the sole aim of popularizing their presidential running mates, who are now tasked with delivering the voting bloc. Since Tuesday, the Odinga-Karua team has held campaigns in Kirinyaga, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri and Murang’a.

She staged a rigorous campaign by holding a series of rallies in Karatina town, Chaka Market, Nyeri town, Kiandutu shopping Centre, Mukurwe-ini and Othaya town before crossing over to Murang’a for yet another highly charged campaign. In Murang’a, she visited Kiriaini, Kangema, Mukuyu, Maragua and finally Kenol. A day after DP Ruto named Mr Gachagua as his running mate; the Kenya Kwanza Alliance hit the ground running, taking their campaigns to Mr Gachagua’s village in Hiriga, Mathira Constituency. What had been set as a funeral service for Mr Gachagua’s brother, Reriani Gachagua, turned into a political homecoming for the MP under his new role. The funeral set the stage for the Kenya Kwanza team to popularize their team-up.

The Azimio team has brought out the big guns, including top government officials, as well as the old guard allied to the Jubilee Party. Cabinet Secretaries Peter Munya (Agriculture) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) accompanied Ms Karua as she toured Nyeri and Murang’a. Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri and head of Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) Andrew Wakahiu were also present

By the end of last week, the Kenya Kwanza team pitched camp in Embu where DP Ruto presided over an economic forum before heading for Ukambani for political rallies. At the weekend DP Ruto and Mr Gachagua took their campaigns to the heart of Central Kenya, with rallies slated for Murang’a and Nyeri in an apparent move to erase yesterday’s footsteps of the Azimio team.

The Azimio team has brought out the big guns, including top government officials, as well as the old guard allied to the Jubilee Party. Cabinet Secretaries Peter Munya (Agriculture) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) accompanied Ms Karua as she toured Nyeri and Murang’a. Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri and head of Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) Andrew Wakahiu were also present.

The others were Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Gichuki Mugambi (Othaya), Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa), and Mpuru Aburi (EALA), Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu, and Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina. Other politicians present were former MPs Ndung’u Gethenji (Tetu), Mary Wambui (Othaya), Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurwe-ini) and Priscilla Nyokabi (Nyeri Woman Rep). Mr Kabando and Ms Nyokabi are seeking the Nyeri senatorial seat.

During her Nyeri campaign tour yesterday, Ms Karua pledged to intensify the war on corruption by going after those who have stolen public resources. “If you look at my demeanour, I don’t joke or laugh when it comes to doing my job. I would like to invite you to help me fight corruption. Together with my principal Raila Odinga, we will ensure all the money that is lost to corruption is instead channelled to development projects,” she said.

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