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LDF sweeps Kerala local body elections

December 17, 2020 05:57 AM


LDF sweeps Kerala local body elections
Ramesh Babu


Thiruvananthapuram : The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Wednesday pulled off an emphatic victory against the odds in Kerala local body elections, considered a semi-final before assembly elections due in April-May 2021.

Even LDF leaders and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which won 19 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala in the 2019 general elections, were surprised by the outcome. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) remained an also-ran in the fiercely contested elections.

The local body elections took place in the backdrop of mounting challenges to the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whose secretary is in jail and a minister has been questioned by law enforcement agencies several times in connection with a gold smuggling racket uncovered in July.

Powerful party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishan was forced to proceed on leave after his son was arrested in connection with a narcotics haul in Bengaluru. Many central agencies have also pitched their tents in the state, probing a series of alleged kickback scandals. Although the Congress and BJP tried their best to exploit these sensational cases to their advantage, the LDF pulled off a victory that is considered a personal triumph for the CM. A close look at the poll outcome shows that a political realignment in the LDF (the Kerala Congress Mani and Loktantric Janata Dal joined the ruling coalition), the effective battle it waged against Covid-19 and welfare measures it launched, including free rations, paid rich dividends.

Its high-decibel campaign that central agencies were targeting its leaders and trying to sabotage welfare programmes also helped it attract sympathy votes, political observers said. Consolidation of the minority vote against the BJP also helped, they said.

In the LDF surge, many Christian-dominated forts of the Congress like Kottayam and Pathanamhtitta crumbled and the party suffered a humiliating defeat even in the wards of opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala in Haripad (Alapuzha) and former chief minister Oommen Chandy in Puthapally (Kottayam).

The poll results raised question about the UDF’s prospects in the 2021 assembly elections. “The Congress will have to do enough introspection and check differences among its leaders,” said senior journalist and political commentator John Mary, adding that overconfidence contributed to the party’s crushing defeat.

The BJP remained a distant third although it managed to wrest one more civic body -- Pandalam (Pathanamthitta) -- besides iPalakkad that it already held. Its effort to win the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation fell flat. Its hopes of pulling off a Hyderabad-like performance in the state capital failed to materialise -- out 100 corporation seats, the LDF won 52, NDA 35, UDF 10 and others three.

Out of six corporations, the LDF won four -- Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Thrissur and Kozhikkode. UDF emerged victorious only in Kannur (north Kerala). Kochi produced a fractured verdict. Out of 944 local bodies, LDF managed 514, UDF 377, NDA 25 and 29 went to others. “It is a victory of the alternative policy being pursued by the CPI(M). People gave a befitting reply to the Centre’s plan to destabilise the state government using its agencies. We salute the people of the state. This mandate will help the LDF to retain its power in assembly elections also,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in Delhi.

Congress leaders said they will examine the reasons for the UDF’s debacle and introspect. “Political climate was conducive for the party. We will examine reasons and take corrective measures,” said party leader T N Prathapan.

BJP state chief K Surendran said both LDF and UDF helped each other and cross-voted to contain the saffron party’s surge. “Last week LDF convenor A Vijayaraghavan said the CPI (M) had taken enough measures to stop BJP in its tracks. In many wards, Congress workers gave their vote en bloc to the CPI(M) to sabotage BJP chances in Thiruvananthapuram,” he said, adding that the ruling party also distributed leaflets in many places for minority consolidation against the BJP.

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