The BJP emerged as an electoral force in the Kerala local body elections, results for which were declared Saturday, even as the CPM-led Left Democratic Front won more than half of the 1,199 bodies.
The BJP, which was helped by the RSS’s vast ground machinery, improved its tally in village, block and district panchayats, as well as municipalities and corporations. However, the party doesn’t appear to have gained much from its much-watched alliance with the backward Hindu outfit Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam).
BJP state president V Muraleedharan said people of Kerala had rejected the malicious campaign of the Congress and CPM against the party.
However, the CPM saw the results as a vote for secularism and against corruption. “It is victory over the BJP’s communal agenda. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy should quit as he had stated the election was a referendum on his government. The increase in the vote share of the BJP should be viewed seriously,” said state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.
The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which had bagged 70 per cent of the local governing bodies in 2010, lost several seats to the CPM and also the BJP.
The LDF won 550 of the 941 gram panchayats, and surged ahead in 90 of the 152 block panchayats. In the district panchayats, municipalities and corporations, the LDF and UDF won almost an equal number of seats.
For the CPM, the victory comes after a streak of electoral debacles since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The LDF improved its performance in southern and northern parts of Kerala, while the UDF maintained its traditional strongholds in central Kerala, except the districts of Idukki and Thrissur.
The BJP won 933 seats in village panchayats, up from 450 in 2010, as well as 21 divisions in block panchayats and three in district panchayats. While in 2010, the BJP had only nine seats in various corporations, now this is up to 51. Of these 51 seats in corporations, 34 are in the Thiruvananthapuram corporation alone (it had six here in 2010). In municipalities, the BJP increased its seats from 79 in 2010 to 236.
The Thiruvananthapuram win is significant as here the BJP seized seats from both the Congress and CPM, and pushed the Congress to the third position in the 100-member strong corporation. The results show the party is poised to become a serious contender in Thiruvananthapuram district in the next Assembly elections.
The Palakkad municipality was another urban area where the BJP shocked the Congress and CPM. With 24 seats, the BJP is the single largest party here. In the last local body elections, the BJP had won 15 seats in Palakkad municipality.
Both Thiruvananthapuram and Palakkad have a sizeable chunk of upper-caste Hindu voters.
In Kasaragode, another district where the BJP has considerable base, the party won four village panchayats as against three in 2010. However, the party had six village panchayats here in 2005. In Kasaragode municipality, the party increased its strength from three seats to 14. The party has been hurt by factionalism among leaders here.
Elsewhere in Kerala, the BJP managed to open account in several local bodies, particularly in municipalities. In some local bodies, the Congress or the CPM can cobble together a governing body only with the support of the BJP.
However, the alliance with the SNDP Yogam appears to have not helped the BJP. SNDP Yogam nominees, who had contested under the banner of the BJP, failed even in Cherthala municipality, the home town of their general secretary Vellappally Natesan. The SNDP Yogam didn’t help the BJP in Kollam district either, though it has a strong presence of the Ezhavas, the Yogam vote bank.
Even in Kannur, a CPM citadel, the BJP increased its seats from 14 to 31.
In contrast, Congress ally Indian Union Muslim League lost several local bodies in its pocketborough Malappuram district after going solo. In many places in Malappuram, local-level coalitions of non-IUML parties emerged winners.
While several Congress leaders said the bar bribery case against Kerala Congress (M) leader and Finance Minister K M Mani was a factor in the UDF’s losses, CM Chandy said they would study the results and then decide.
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