The ruling Left-led coalition in Kerala on Wednesday 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.
"This is the message of people who love Kerala to those who are trying to destroy it," Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday.
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. pic.twitter.com/KGnAb6Xj4f— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) December 16, 2020
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 won in 2015-- and 108 of 152 block panchayats, according to the 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-led UDF to a third place again, in a triangular contest. The Left has improved its 2015 tally in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, with a majority in 51 of 100 wards. The BJP-led NDA has taken 34. In 2015, the LDF had won 42 wards and the BJP alliance 34.
The UDF has won majority in Kannur. In Thrissur and Kochi corporations, however, UDF and LDF have a close call, with independents likely to decide their fate.
"Our performance is good. People were expecting a bigger victory because of the government's corruption. But one thing is clear – local body elections not always depend upon political factors. Local issues, personalities, family support facilitate decisions. In some areas like grama panchayats, we have done better than before," Congress's Ramesh Chennithala told reporters.
The BJP also counted some gains on Wednesday; its councillor won in the Kannur Corporation for the first time. The BJP alliance has seen a marginal increase in its tally in Grama Panchayats and Municipalities.
I thank the people of Kerala for giving an improved mandate to BJP in Local Body Elections. @BJP4Keralam President @surendranbjp Ji & Karyakartas worked tirelessly & with this mandate, we will continue to expose the corrupt, communal & hypocrite politics of both LDF & UDF fronts.— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) December 17, 2020
The BJP managed to retain Palakkad Municipality and won Pandalam Municipality in Pathanamthitta, increasing its count by one.
We @BJP4Keralam has won Pandalam Municipality the birthplace of Lord Ayyappa. We also won the ward consisting of Sabarimala temple. It's an emotional moment for the devotees of Swamy Ayyappa. Swami Saranam.— K Surendran (@surendranbjp) December 16, 2020
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.
Kerala BJP president K Surendran, while speaking to the media, alleged that a political nexus had been working against the party in the state. "Congress, CPM, Muslim League are in an unholy alliance against the BJP. But BJP has improved its seat share despite heavy cross-voting".
The campaign for the polls saw the ruling Left front, and UDF and BJP in the opposition, spar over the state's coronavirus situation. There were allegations of corruption in the gold smuggling case against the Chief Minister's Office – a charge vehemently denied by the ruling LDF.
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.
Final declarations of results are still awaited.