Kerala local body elections are a litmus test for CPM-led LDF, Congress-led UDF and BJP-led NDA ahead of the Assembly polls. Follow LIVE Updates here
Victory of the people of Kerala: Pinarayi
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said at a press briefing that the victory of the LDF signifies the victory of the people of Kerala.
“In traditional strongholds, Congress and the UDF has lost badly. Decades of history have been overturned in citadels of certain UDF leaders. LDF has made inroads into these areas,” he said.
“LDF has strengthened.
It’s popular voter-base has expanded. More people have supported the LDF than ever before. That’s chiefly because Kerala’s mindset has allied with the protection of secularism.”
The CM said the Congress-led UDF is becoming ‘irrelevant’ in Kerala politics with the results of these polls.
‘Corona Thomas’ wins against virus, loses election
Corona Thomas shares her name with the highly-infectious virus that has now killed more than 1.5 million people around the world.
Her name caught the fancy of people during the beginning of the pandemic who mocked her and made fun of her. Subsequently, she herself tested positive for the virus while being pregnant with a child. But after 10 days at the Kollam Medical College, she, and her child, defeated the virus.
In November, she made headlines when she was nominated as the BJP candidate from the Mathili ward in Kollam Corporation.
But as results show today, Corona ended up in third position behind the LDF, UDF candidates.
Winning candidates of all parties have one thing in common – NO MASKS
If there’s one thing that has united winning candidates of all parties in victory processions today, it is that none of them seem to be wearing masks. There’s a lot of hugging and shaking hands with absolute disdain for Covid-19 protocols.
Is Health Minister KK Shailaja watching?
In ‘Jose vs Joseph’, Jose has the last laugh
This election has demonstrated the strength and influence of the Jose K Mani-led Kerala Congress(M), especially in the central Kerala districts of Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta.
Many thought Jose took an extreme step in leaving the UDF and crossing over to the LDF. But in hindsight, it has proved to be the right one. Jose has helped the LDF win crucial divisions in district panchayats in Kottayam, Idukki and Pathanamthitta, and thus dislodging the UDF from power in those districts.
In fact, in Kottayam district panchayat, the LDF has seized control after decades.
PJ Joseph, the chief of Kerala Congress(J) who remained with the UDF, has failed considerably especially in Idukki.
How have the LDF-UDF fronts fared across regions?
If we look at the grama panchayat and block panchayat figures, the LDF has a clear lead over the UDF in both segments. The LDF’s sweep across these segments has no geographical constraints.
For example, the LDF has a lead in gram panchayat seats over UDF in 10 of the 14 districts, spreading across the state.
The UDF has leads only in four districts – Ernakulam and Idukki in central Kerala and Malappuram and Wayanad in northern Kerala.
If we look at block panchayat figures, here too, the LDF has a lead over the UDF in 10 of the 14 districts.
The UDF has leads in three districts – Ernakulam, Malappuram and Wayanad. In Kasaragod, both fronts have equal number of seats.
‘My ward has always been a CPM stronghold’
Congress Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala fended off tough questions from a reporter on how and why the Congress lost in the ward in which his house is located in Chennithala panchayat in Alappuzha.
“My ward has always been a CPM stronghold so it’s not surprising that Congress lost. But we have won the Chennithala panchayat,’ he told in response to a reporter.
Chennithala admitted that the allegations of corruption especially in the gold smuggling scandal hasn’t reflected in the local body polls. He said the local body polls are not entirely ‘political’ in character and revolve around candidates, families and local issues.
PAC will meet to discuss election results: State Congress chief
State Congress president M. Ramachandran said the party’s political affairs committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the results. He said the party will honestly introspect and think about any ‘corrective steps’ that need to be taken.
He said the Congress had done ‘well’ in panchayats and municipalities and that it had not suffered any dents to its vote-bank.
Sr Cong leader K Sudhakaran fires first salvo
Always the party prone to infighting and factional troubles, the Congress, having conceded much of its space in southern and central Kerala to the CPM, rang out with the first critical comment from a party MP.
K Sudhakaran, the MP from Kannur and someone who has long aspired to be the state Congress president, said the party suffers from organisational weaknesses and that the ‘jumbo committees’ of the KPCC hasn’t helped.
The Congress had approved ‘jumbo committees’ of office-bearers in KPCC in order to quell infighting.
Our strongholds are safe: PK Kunhalikutty
IUML national general secretary PK Kunhalikutty said the results indicate that the party’s own strongholds and citadels are safe and that the party has been able to retain the vote it got last time.
At the same time, he said the UDF will have to introspect on the losses it faced in central and southern Kerala.
Why Kerala local body poll results are a victory for CM Vijayan
The huge surge of the LDF is a major victory for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who has been the lone face of the party as well as the government. Vijayan had faced a setback in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 when the LDF bagged only one out of 20 seats. Although the local body elections are a different ball game, the results are being viewed as a referendum on his government which is headed for Assembly elections less than six months away.
The magic of ZERO votes in Koduvally
Never before perhaps in the history of Kerala has a major party candidate ended up in a municipal election with zero votes.
That’s exactly what happened to the official LDF candidate in the 15th ward in Koduvally municipality. While political observers may be surprised at the result, the CPM would not worry too much as it may have most likely asked its cadres to vote for a different candidate.
Initially, the CPM had nominated controversial leader Karat Faisal as its candidate in the ward. But when Faisal was interrogated in connection with the gold smuggling scandal, the party dropped him and pitched another candidate. But Faisal stood as an independent in the same ward and has now won. And the official CPM candidate has lost without getting a single vote.
Amit Shah’s Kerala dreams will have to wait
The BJP’s shrewd calculations to expand its footprint into unknown territories and win at the cost of allies may have worked in the Bihar Assembly polls, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls and the recent Bodoland Territorial Council polls in Assam.
But in Kerala, a state whose soil has proved to be infertile for the growth of BJP time and time again, the party has yet again failed to create any surge in votes that could grab headlines.
The biggest upset for the party will have to be Thiruvananthapuram Corporation where it will have to remain satisfied with a second place – 34 seats to LDF’s 51 seats. Despite nominating its district president as a candidate and having a deep network of RSS cadres, the BJP has failed to cross the half-way mark.
Another upset is Thrissur Corporation where it could win only 5 wards, way behind the LDF and the UDF. It’s own mayoral candidate and a popular face on TV debates, B Gopalakrishnan has lost from his ward.
At the same time, the party has more than doubled its control over gram panchayats – from around 10 to 24 this time. In addition to Palakkad municipality, which it retained, it has also gained control of Pandalam municipality in Pathanamthitta.
The BJP, by coming second in many municipalities like Thripunithura and Kodungallur, has dented the vote-shares of the LDF and UDF.
In any case, newly-elected state president K Surendran will have a lot to answer to the central leadership which has been frustrated for some time over party affairs in Kerala.
A panchayat council with NO opposition
That’s the state of affairs in Aikkaranadu panchayat in Ernakulam district where Twenty20, an outfit floated by garment manufacturer Kitex Group, have won all the 14 seats it contested. For the first time in the history of the panchayat, there won’t be an opposition.
It was in 2015 that an outfit backed by a corporate firm jumped into election fray for the first time and won a panchayat – Kizhakkambalam. The outfit had attracted criticism for ruling the panchayat with an authoritative hand.
BJP will not have a mayor in Thiruvananthapuram after all
Setback for BJP in Thiruvananthapuram corporation as it has gone further down from its 2015 tally. While it had 34 seats last time, it is now leading in 30 seats, behind the LDF with 50 seats. UDF is in 3rd place with just 9 seats.
The saffron party had nominated its district president VV Rajesh to oversee the campaign, indicating its seriousness to win the corporation. It was also inspired by its performance in Hyderabad corporation.
But obviously, things haven’t gone its way. It has managed to hold its own, but not done enough to win the corporation council.
Let’s go beyond the specifics
In five hours since counting began today, Kerala’s voters in rural and urban areas have given a big thumbs-up to the CPM and its allies, repeating the trust they showed in the coalition five years back.
As of leads available at 1 pm, the LDF is set to rule over 500 of the 941 panchayats, 10 of the 14 district panchayats and 110 of the 152 block panchayats in what can only be called a major sweep over the state’s rural countryside. Only in the urban areas – municipalities and corporations – has the LDF had to concede a bit of space to the UDF.
These numbers will undergo minor changes, but the larger trend is very clear. It certainly appears a validation of the policies and programmes of the Pinarayi Vijayan government, especially its thrust on developing basic infrastructure at hospitals and schools, increasing social welfare pension and the government aid for elderly people and its ability to control the Covid-19 pandemic without incurring a large mortality rate.
The CPM had gone out on a limb to say that the results in the panchayat elections will be a referendum on its governance and it will be delighted it did so. It has performed exceedingly well in rural areas, making deep inroads into traditional UDF bastions like Ernakulam and Kottayam.
One of the key markers of the LDF’s success has been its ability to bring in precious allies, the chief among which is the Kerala Congress (M) led by Jose K Mani. Using the influence of KC(M) among farmers and Catholic voters, the CPM has won 15 of the 22 district panchayat divisions and 9 of the 11 block divisions in Kottayam.
At the same time, the CPM has been able to hold on to its existing core vote-bank in districts like Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram to come to power in corporations in those districts. There has never been any doubt about the quality of the party’s well-oiled machinery in Kerala, especially with youngsters of outfits like SFI and DYFI pitching into campaign. When it comes to canvassing votes among the hard-core segments, the CPM has never failed. And this election is an example of that.
These results will certainly boost the CPM as it prepares to return to power in 2021. In the last three decades, no party or coalition has been voted back to power. The CPM will be eager to break that jinx.
Outgoing CPM mayor of Thiruvananthapuram loses
K Sreekumar, the outgoing mayor of the CPM in Thiruvananthapuram corporation, has lost to the BJP candidate from the Karikkakam ward. This will be a shock for the CPM as he was seen as a popular local leader.
He was not expected to be the mayor though even if he wins as the chair is reserved for women this time.
Where is Covid-19?
Going by the victory processions of the LDF, UDF and the BJP in various places across the state, it doesn’t seem as though we are in the middle of a pandemic, especially in a state contributing one of the highest number of cases every day.
There are very few masks. No social distancing. Zero adherence to protocols.
It will be no surprise if new infections soar in the state in coming weeks.
BJP makes splash in turf of Sabarimala protests
The BJP’s campaign to resist the entry of women at the Sabarimala temple in 2018 did not fetch them any dividends in the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
But in the local body elections, the BJP has demonstrated its strength in the Pandalam municipality by winning 17 of the 33 seats, thereby snatching control of the municipality from the LDF.
Pandalam, home to the erstwhile royal family which has a connection to Sabarimala temple, had witnessed massive protests in favour of right-wing groups in 2018 with the participation of a large number of women. Now, it seems the support it garnered then has fetched the BJP votes this time.
Juicy tidbit number three
Here’s another one. The municipal ward where the CPM state headquarters ‘AKG Bhawan’ is located in Thiruvananthapuram, has slipped from the party.
This is going to be terrible heartburn for the party: the ward has been won by the Congress!
Also, two of the women mayoral candidates of the CPM have bitten dust in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. The party is however leading ahead of BJP there.
In ward referred to as ‘Gujarat of Thrissur’, BJP loses
But in a stinging reversal of sorts, the party’s mayoral candidate and a popular face on television debates B Gopalakrishnan has lost by over 200 votes from the Kuttankulangara seat. The even bigger shock is that this was a seat it considered safe and often referred to as the ‘Gujarat of Thrissur’. Tough luck for Gopalakrishnan.
In the trends available for Thrissur, the BJP (5) is way behind the UDF (13) and LDF (16).
Voters at a polling booth in Malappuram. (Source: Kerala PRD)
While the panchayat elections invariably are rooted to hyperlocal, ward-specific candidates and issues, given that they are mostly fought along political lines, the results will have deep insights on some of the political undercurrents in Kerala and how they will potentially shape up before the Assembly elections.
For one, these elections will be a litmus test for the two prominent Kerala Congress factions – KC(M) led by Jose K Mani and the KC(J) led by PJ Joseph fighting on opposite ends of the political spectrum and what dividends they will pay to their respective LDF and UDF coalitions. The winner will have greater bargaining power when it comes to seat allocation next year.
Secondly, the poll results especially in the northern districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod will indicate if the UDF’s decision to have an ‘understanding’ with the Welfare Party of India, backed by the Jamaat-e-Islami, in certain areas has paid off. It will point to the larger issue of whether secular parties like the Congress is playing a dangerous game by allying with forces like the Jamaat.
Thirdly, as stressed by CPM leaders themselves, the polls will be seen as a referendum on the governance and welfare initiatives of the four-and-a-half-year-old Pinarayi Vijayan government and the popularity of the chief minister himself to shore up votes for his party. There is no question that the unearthing of the gold smuggling scam in July, the arrest of the CM’s principal secretary, interrogation of one of his ministers by central agencies, irregularities in the housing scheme and the move to introduce draconian amendments to the Kerala Police Act and later withdrawn under public pressure have all tainted the image of the government. Whether these issues have been a factor in the voter’s mind will have to be seen.
Four, this is the first election the BJP has faced under its new state president, K Surendran who he took charge in February this year. Inspired by its performances in the Bihar Assembly elections and the Hyderabad municipal elections, the party will be keen to improve its vote-share from the paltry 13.28% it got in 2015 and even gain control of a few important local bodies. Getting a mayor of its own in the Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur corporations are its priorities, though the task is not simple.