The ruling Left-led coalition in Kerala today scooped up a big win in local body polls seen by all parties as a litmus test ahead of assembly elections in the state next year. The ruling alliance, hammered by corruption allegations, has taken most of the grama panchayats and district panchayats, or self-governing bodies in villages and districts.
The Left Democratic Front (LDF) is leading in 520 of 945 grama panchayats and the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in 371.
The LDF is also winning 10 of 14 district panchayats — compared to the seven it held — and 108 of 152 block panchayats, 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.
The BJP failed to make a breakthrough in Thiruvananthapuram as it had hoped for, though it pushed the Congress to third place in a triangular fight. The Left has improved on its 2015 tally in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, with a majority in 51 of 100 wards. The BJP-led NDA has taken 34 and the UDF remains in the third spot. In 2015, the LDF had won 42 wards and the BJP alliance had 34.
Voting took place in three rounds earlier this month for seats in 941 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 86 municipalities and six corporations.
In 2015, the LDF had won in most of the local bodies. In district panchayats, the UDF and LDF were at seven each.
The BJP also counted some gains today; its counselor won in the Kannur Corporation for the first time. The party clinched Pandalam Municipality in Pathanamthitta, in addition to retaining Palakkad Municipality — in 2015, it had won only one municipality.
But the BJP’s mayor candidate and spokesperson B Gopalakrishnan lost to his UDF rival in a seat held by the party in the Thrissur Corporation.
This time, the campaign for the polls saw the LDF and the UDF sparring over the state’s coronavirus crisis and the gold smuggling case in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office was drawn into corruption allegations. The LDF rubbished the allegations and tried to focus its campaign on development schemes.
Kerala Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac said the LDF was heading towards a “resounding” victory. “People reject the slander campaign of Congress and BJP and also the machinations of central agencies. It is a vote for left politics and development alternative of Kerala government,” Mr Isaac tweeted.
Despite a lead in municipalities, the Congress-led opposition has lost the key corporations of Kochi and Thrissur to the LDF, retaining Kannur.
Congress’s Ramesh Chennithala said: “Our performance has been good. We expected a better performance, considering the corruption of the government…Local body elections are not completely on political basis.”
The LDF accuses the BJP of using central agencies to target the state government with probes like the gold smuggling case or the state government’s flagship housing programme.