Kerala Local Body Elections: First Phase arrives in stormy political weather

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The first phase of the Kerala Local Body elections has arrived in the midst of stormy political weather. In an election that is regarded as the semi-final before the Assembly elections, half the state turned up at the polling booths, in the wake of accusations, counter-accusations, and the promises of more to follow. The last week saw a court sustaining an appeal against discontinuing investigation on corruption charges against the Finance Minister of the state, K M Mani.

This has landed as a severe blow to the ruling front, UDF. On the eve of elections, the Vigileace and Anti-Corruption Bureau has decided to proceed with a corruption case filed against V A Arun Kumar, former CoirFed Director and son of Opposition Leader, V S Achuthanandan. The political analysts are still unsure about how this move will affect the voters.

The tone of the election was set by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, with his statement that, the local body election would be a referendum of the Congress-led UDF Government. The Opposition front, CPM-led LDF started a twin-pronged attack on both UDF and the BJP, with Price-Rise-Corruption charges and accusations of Hindutwa politics quite early, in September.

The local body election is also crucial for the state leadership of BJP. The party president, Amit Shah, himself had instructed the state party to bring the capital corporation, Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation (TMC) under its rule. The situation has been made even more dire for the BJP by its decision to form an alliance with SNDP Yogam, a caste outfit. If this decision affects the party’s chances in the election, it may reflect badly on their leadership. Factionalism and infighting is already becoming evident in the state party. If it fails to perform well in the LSG elections, central intervention may follow.

Seven districts, including the capital district Thiruvanathapuram witnessed brisk polling despite the adverse weather and heavy rainfall prevalent. Average voter turnout of 20% is reported in the first two hours of polling. Besides Thiruvanathapuram, Kollam, Idukki, Kozhikkode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasargode districts are covered in the fist phase.

The remaining seven districts of the state will be covered in the second and last phase, to be held on Thursday, November 5. Counting will take place on Saturday, November 7.

The elections are being held for 21871 wards in 1199 Local Self Governing Bodies. This includes six Municipal Corporations, 14 Jilla Panchayats, 86 Municipalities and 941 Grama Panchayats. The state has a votercount of 2.51 Crore.

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