The spectacular victory registered by the ruling CPM- led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the local body election in Kerala will come as a huge reprieve for the government ahead of the Assembly elections, slated for next year.
The ruling LDF made major gains by bagging more than 500 village panchayats and five corporation councils. The LDF also has a clear edge in block and district panchayats in the state. The local body elections are likely to set the tone for the upcoming Assembly polls.
Its main political opponent, Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) suffered major setbacks in the election, except for municipalities.
The elections were held for seats in 941 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 86 municipalities, and six corporations in the state.
The election was a high stake one for the Pinarayi Vijayan government, which was facing heat from the Opposition parties on charges of corruption in the past couple of months. Though the opposition focused its campaign on the alleged scams against the government, the CPM’s focused on welfare initiatives undertaken by the government in the last four and a half years seems to have worked in the election. LDF’s alliance with Kerala Congress (M) has also benefitted the party in this election.
Though the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was expected to make significant gains, it failed to make any major breakthrough in the local body polls.
All eyes were on the prestigious battle of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, where the BJP was also pinning its hope. However, the LDF comfortably won the corporation with BJP emerging as the second runner up. The UDF was pushed to third place here. The BJP had got favourable results in 2015 local body elections in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, however, this time, they were not able to retain its earlier share of seats.
Political observers point out that this election wasn’t a cakewalk for the LDF, which was in the dock after the alleged ‘gold smuggling case’ and the involvement of former principal secretary M Sivasankar, cast a shadow on the image of the government.
Besides the gold smuggling controversy, the government also faced heat regarding the alleged money laundering and drug case involving Bineesh, son of the party-state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. The opposition didn’t relent even after Balakrishnan stepped down as the state secretary on health grounds.
In an interview prior to the election, senior CPM leader and former MP M.B. Rajesh had termed the allegations as politically motivated. He also pointed out that the welfare initiatives by the government such as disbursal of social welfare pensions, free ration kits will work in favour of the government.
Though the BJP roped in many candidates from Christian and Muslim communities to consolidate its minority base, it failed to make any impact. The infighting in the party ahead of the polls also didn’t go down well with the voters. Recently, the party’s top leader Shobha Surendran came out in the open against the state leadership.
While the Congress lost some of its bastions like Kottayam, Idukki, and Pathanamthitta to the LDF, the party will have to do soul searching as it was hoping to ride on the corruption charges against the LDF government. Congress’ alliance with the Welfare Party of India (WPI), an outfit of Jamaat-e-Islami, has also created division in its ranks.
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