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Morale-Boosting Win for LDF in Kerala Local Body Elections

NEW DELHI, Dec 16: With just about four months to go for the elections to the Kerala state Assembly early next year, the CPM-led ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Wednesday registered a morale-boosting win in the local body elections giving a rude shock to the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and sidelining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Considered to be a personal victory of Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in view of the trying conditions the ruling coalition was in the wake of a series of corruption charges against some high ups in the government, the performance of the LDF in the local body elections would come as a wakeup call for the Congress and the UDF which in the last lok sabha elections had won 19 of the 20 seats in the state and hoped to repeat the performance in the local elections and later in the state Assembly. For the BJP, the indication is that the party may still have to wait for some more time before it can hope to make some serious inroads into the leftist citadel.

Following the local election results, the chief minister took to Twitter to thank electors for reposing faith in the LDF. “Thank you Kerala. Thank you for reposing faith in LDF. We are humbled by the trust and the confidence of the people of Kerala. This is a victory for secularism and inclusive development. My warm greetings to all the elected representatives,” CM’s tweet read.

Local body elections were held in the wake of mounting charges against the CPI(M)-led government. Vijayan’s secretary is in jail and a minister was questioned several times in connection with the gold smuggling case. The powerful party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan was forced to proceed on leave after his son was arrested in connection with a narcotics case in Bengaluru.

Many central agencies have also pitched their tents in the state probing a series of alleged kickbacks. Though Congress and BJP tried their best to exploit these sensational cases, the LDF pulled out a victory in most adverse conditions.

Thought the BJP remained a distant third-runner, it managed one more civic body Pandalam (Pathanamthitta) besides its sitting Palakkad. But its strategy to win Thiruvananthapuram Corporation by pulling off a Hyderabad-type performance fell flat. Out 100 corporation seats, the LDF got 52, NDA 35, UDF 10 and others 3.

Out of six corporations the LDF won four_ Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Thrissur and Kozhikkode- and UDF emerged victorious only in Kannur (north Kerala) and in Kochi it is a fractured verdict. Out of 944 local bodies LDF managed 514, UDF 377, NDA 25 and 29 others.

The LDF has also taken control of 520 of the 945 village panchayats, the UDF in 377, the NDA 25 and others 29. The LDF is also winning 10 of 14 district panchayats — compared to the seven it held — and 108 of 152 block panchayats, the UDF in 43 and the NDA had the lead only in one, according to State Election Commission figures.

The UDF is ahead in four district panchayats and is also leading in 45 of 86 municipalities, compared to the LDF’s 35.

“It is a victory of alternate 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 people of the state. This mandate will help the LDF to retain its power in assembly elections also,” said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury in Delhi.

Congress leaders said they will examine reasons for debacle and will do enough introspection. “Political climate was conducive for the party. We will examine reasons and take corrective measures,” said party leader T N Prathapan MP.

BJP state president K Surendran said both LDF and UDF helped each other and cross-voted to contain the party’s surge. “Last week LDF convenor A Vijayaraghavan said the CPIM) had taken enough measures to stop BJP on its tracks. In many wards Congress workers gave their vote en bloc to the CPI(M) to sabotage BJP chances in Thiruvananthapuram,” he said.

(Manas Dasgupta)

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