Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) swept the 3-level local body polls, splashing red across areas which have long been considered bastions of Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
The ruling front captured 5 of the total 6 corporations, 10 of the 14 district panchayats, 108 of the 150 block panchayats and 514 of the total 941 gram panchayats. Only in the municipalities did UDF score over the ruling front, claiming 45 of the total 86 municipalities.
Another notable feature of the elections is the foray BJP made in rural and semi-urban areas, where the party won a number of seats in various bodies, but not large enough to take control of the administration. The saffron party-led NDA alliance, however, won control of 22 gram panchayats and 2 municipalities.
Addressing a press meet, a triumphant-looking Pinarayi Vijayan asserted the results were the people’s answer to the efforts of the opposition parties and specifically the central agencies to destabilise the LDF government. He claimed a large number of allegations of corruption and scams levelled against his government have been rejected by the people.
Vijayan had, in fact, claimed on the day of the last leg of polling the day of counting will provide the answer to the campaigns of the central agencies, whose main objective, according to him, was to scuttle the state government’s developmental initiatives.
In terms of real politics, what made the big difference was the switching of sides by the Kerala Congress (M) faction, led by Jose K Mani, which crossed over the LDF following a clash with a rival faction of the same party, leading to its expulsion from the UDF.
The development ensured the ruling front’s vote bank was fortified with the addition of the dominant Christian community of central Travancore area, which had traditionally been with Congress and UDF. As was widely expected, the realignment changed the contours of central Kerala politics.
This meant the hometurf of leaders such as former CM Oommen Chandy and Jose K Mani’s late father has for the first time landed up in LDF hands and UDF suffered humiliating defeats in its traditional bastions of Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Idukki.
In the Christian-dominated Kottayam, the equation has become just the opposite of what it was in the 2015 elections. While LDF had won only 21 panchayats, compared to 48 of UDF in 2015, this election has seen LDF garnering 40, while UDF got reduced to 21. Panchayats that had never allowed the leftists have for the first time handed over their administration to the LDF this time.
On the other hand, the Joseph group of the Kerala Congress, which was retained by the UDF as the original faction, got routed in its strongholds. Faction leader PJ Joseph saw his candidates lose to the Jose faction even in his home turf.
In the keenly-watched Thiruvananthapuram corporation, where the BJP had mounted a serious challenge to the LDF-held administration, the saffron party improved its tally, but fell short of the magic number.
Big win for dead candidate
The 50-year-old LDF candidate, Saheerabanu, who lost her life in a road mishap on Tuesday, won the local polls with a huge margin from ward 15 (Parasheri west) of Thalakkad grama panchayat. She got 248 votes more than the UDF candidate Sulaikha Beevi to win the ward.
Saheerabanu was undergoing treatment after she met with an accident while riding pillion on her son’s two-wheeler when she was distributing voting slips. The motorbike collided with a car.
She was a former panchayat member and a CPM local committee member. Saheerabanu had been an active worker of the party for the past 20 years.