The mood was sombre outside AKG Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, the state headquarters of the CPM, in the wee hours of 7 November. The counting has not yet started for the local body elections in Kerala. Shortly after eight in the morning, news of the United Democratic Front (UDF) win in Pathanamthitta spread a palpable gloom on some faces outside the centre. However, the sad faces turned cheerful when a few minutes later reports started to trickle in that the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) was leading in many of the municipal corporations including the state capital.
“This (result) would be historic for the LDF and dismal for (Oommen) Chandy,” says an ecstatic party worker. In an emphatic show of its electoral prowess, the LDF secured a big win by pocketing around 58 percent of local bodies this time. And thereby, announcing its dominance at the grassroots level in style.
For the CPM, which received a lot of flak for its strategies in the past, the win is a huge relief and a morale booster before the state Assembly polls scheduled to be held early next year.
It was after a decade of electoral debacles that the LDF displayed a superior show this time. Since 2005, the LDF has not gained anything significant in the state. Unlike the earlier elections, the factionalism, the root cause of CPM’s flop shows, was not that much visible in the party ranks and hardly reflective in the selection of candidates. Moreover, the LDF’s united stand against some of the incidents in the country such as rising intolerance, attacks on writers and beef controversy played a crucial role in their victory.
The growing discomfiture of the minority communities towards the BJP helped the LDF secure many Muslim votes especially in many of the non-Muslim League pockets in north Kerala.
The vigilance court observation that there are sufficient materials to prima facie make out a case against the state Finance Minister KM Mani in the bar bribery case also proved to be a boon for the CPM.
With the fortunes favouring the CPM-led LDF coalition, the front was able to wrest 549 of the 941 gram panchayats. They have also had a upper hand in 90 of the 152 block panchayats, 43 of the 87 municipalities and four of the six corporations in the state.
On the other hand, the UDF could win only 365 gram panchayats, 61 block panchayats, seven district panchayats, two corporation and 40 municipality wards. Adding to its woes, the ruling dispensation suffered a major setback in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, where it finished third to the BJP and the LDF.
As for the saffron party, it won 14 gram panchayats. However, the icing on the cake for the BJP was its performance in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, where it took its tally to 34 seats from six in 2010 and finished second. It also emerged as the single largest party in the Palakkad Municipality. The party has also opened its account in the Kollam Corporation apart from making its presence felt in several municipalities.
The CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that this victory is a stern warning to the current UDF government. “The result shows that the people had voted to preserve secularism and against the communal propaganda of the BJP,” said Kodiyeri. Former state home minister also wants Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to quit as he felt that the result is a referendum on the Chandy government.
Dismissive of being worried about the BJP’s surge in the state, Kodiyeri said that the leadership would certainly look into the BJP’s share of votes in the elections but it is not at all worried about its electoral performance.
The impressive show by the BJP in the polls indicates that the party is gradually making deep inroads into the state, which has mostly been governed by the coalitions of the UDF and the LDF.
The BJP, aided by the RSS machinery, has doubled its tally of seats and vote share and registered a significant impact in the state at the expense of the UDF.