Thiruvananthapuram: The local government polls in Kerala beginning Monday will be closely watched as Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has declared that the elections would be a referendum on his four and a half years of governance.
Polling will held on Monday in seven districts – Kollam, Idukki, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Kannur, Wayanad and Kasargode. The remaining seven districts will go to polls on Thursday. The polls would decide the fate of candidates contesting from 21,871 seats in 941 village, 152 blocks and 14 district panchayats besides 86 municipalities and six corporations. Over 2.50 crore people are eligible to vote at 35,000 polling booths.
Chandy had set the ball rolling after he announced that the polls would be a referendum on his government. He also said the assembly polls next year would show an incumbent government returning to office. Former defence minister A.K. Antony, the star campaigner in the polls, termed the elections to the local government bodies as a crucial semi-final ahead of the finals – the assembly polls. In all his speeches, Antony launched a scathing attack on both the principal opponents in the state – the Left Democratic Front (LDF) led by the CPI-M and the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.
The CPI-M led Left grouping is hopeful the voters will give a shock treatment to the Chandy government. It is also optimistic that the trend would continue in the assembly polls, leading to its return to power. Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, 92, is the poster boy for the CPI-M as he is able to draw large audiences. But the party’s fortunes have suffered a bit after the veteran fell sick due to a gruelling campaigning. He has been advised rest for a few days. The third front in Kerala led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which started on a high note, saw its campaign hitting a low after a row over beef in northern parts of the country found its echo in the southern state as well.
The BJP is yet to open its account in the 140-member Kerala assembly. Currently, it has around 500 seats in the more than 21,000 seats in the third tier of governance in the state. Hence, with Chandy terming the polls as a referendum on his performance and with almost 65 percent of the outgoing local bodies ruled by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the poll results are likely to have ramifications for all state political parties.