The ruling CPM-led LDF and the opposition were locked in a close contest today in early leads in Kerala local body polls.
As of 5:15 PM, the LDF is leading in 515 of the 941 panchayats, followed by UDF in 376 panchayats and NDA in 28 panchayats. The LDF also has a clear lead over the UDF in district panchayats (10 to 4) and block panchayats (108 to 44). Only in the case of municipalities, the LDF is trailing behind UDF (35 to 45), while the fight for corporations is going neck-to-neck (3 to 3)
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on this day celebrated the LDF's "comprehensive victory" in the local body polls and said that it was a "befitting reply" to those trying to "destroy" Kerala.
"The LDF got a comprehensive victory in local body polls. This is the victory of the people of state. This election results are a befitting reply to those who are trying to destroy Kerala. Efforts of those who tried to destabilise the government using central agencies have been defeated," the Kerala chief minister said.
Vijayan added, "The results have shown that UDF and its opportunistic politics have no space in Kerala. Congress was siding with the BJP to carry out a false campaign and malign the LDF. It has not succeeded."
Counting of votes polled in the crucial local body elections began at 8 am on Wednesday morning with the traditional political fronts-CPI (M)-led LDF, Congress-headed UDF and BJP-NDA- keeping their fingers crossed as its result is generally seen as pointer to the upcoming Assembly election.
A total of 21,893 wards in 1,200 local self-governing bodies including 6 corporations, 941 village panchayats, 14 district panchayats and 87 municipalities, went to polls in three phases in the southern state on December 8, 10 and 14.
According to Election Commission figures, a total of 73.12 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first phase, 76.78 per cent in the second phase and 78.64 per cent in the third and final phase.
Section 144 has been in place in northern Malappuram and in some pockets of neighbouring Kozhikode and Kasaragod districts ahead of the announcement of the poll results.
This time, the civic body polls have gained comparatively more significance as its result is generally considered to reflect the political mindset of the southern state which would go to assembly polls after some months.
So, despite COIVD-19 protocols and restrictions, the state witnessed a fierce campaign in which everything right from the national politics to state issues became a campaign tool.
The ruling LDF, which used to showcase a good performance in the civic body polls, banked on the achievements in the development front under the four and half years old rule of Pinarayi Vijayan government.
However, opposition UDF, during the campaign, focused on various corruption charges against the government and controversies related to the gold smuggling case and allegations cropped up against the Chief Minister's office.
BJP-NDA, which was looking all means to break the decades-old bipolar polity led by UDF and LDF, was hopeful of showcasing an impressive performance and garner three-fold seats compared to the 2015 civic polls.
In 2015, the ruling Left front had nearly swept the civic polls by winning 549 village panchayats, 90 block panchayats, 44 municipalities and four corporations. At the district panchayat level, both UDF and LDF had won 7 seats each. BJP had come third in terms of wards in 2015 but displayed an impressive performance in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation and Palakkad municipality.
(Inputs from PTI)