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Kerala local body election results highlights: LDF makes sweeping gains before 2021, Cong weakened

Kerala Local Body Election Results 2020: The elections, seen as a precursor to next year's Assembly polls in the state, was an opportunity for all three political fronts — CPM-led LDF, Congress-led UDF and the BJP-led NDA — to test their strength at the grassroot level.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi, New Delhi, Thiruvanathapuram | Updated: December 17, 2020 10:18:28 am
Kozhikode: Left Democratic Front (LDF) workers celebrate during counting day of Kerala local body elections, in Kozhikode, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (PTI Photo) (PTI16-12-2020_000064A)

The results from the local body elections in Kerala have firmly placed the CPM-led LDF in the driving seat with wins in 514 of the 941 gram panchayats, 10 of the 14 district panchayats and 108 of the 152 block panchayats. The Congress-led UDF came second in these segments — 375 gram panchayats, 44 block panchayats and four district panchayats. The BJP-led NDA has the members to control 23 gram panchayats though it doesn’t have the numbers to hold a single block or district panchayat.

In corporations, the LDF achieved simple majority in Kozhikode, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram and became the single largest party in Kochi. The UDF got a simple majority in Kannur and the single largest party status in Thrissur. In Both Kochi and Thrissur, both fronts will have to shore up support of rebels or Independents to get mayor and deputy mayor posts.

In municipalities, the UDF has done slightly better, winning control of 45 of the 86 municipalities followed by the LDF getting power in 35 and NDA in two.

The results are certainly a stinging setback to the UDF which was hoping to win big in the local body polls and thereby present a united and strong campaign in 2021 Assembly polls. Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala admitted that the ‘public sentiment against the corruption of the LDF government’ in the backdrop of the gold smuggling case has not reflected in the results.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said it is the victory of the people and a fitting reply to the central government agencies which are trying to “wreck the state.”

LDF’s major inroads into UDF vote-banks particularly in Thrissur, Ernakulam and Kottayam districts indicates a popular support base that goes beyond the CPM’s strict cadre votes.

As for the BJP, it has faced setbacks in contests to Thrissur and Thiruvananthapuram corporations. At the same time, it has doubled the number of gram panchayats it holds and has added a municipality to its tally.

READ: Why these results indicate a victory for CM Pinarayi Vijayan

The elections to 15,962 wards in 941 gram panchayats, 2080 wards in 152 block panchayats, 331 divisions in 14 district panchayats, 3078 wards in 86 municipalities and 414 wards in six municipal corporations were held in three phases on December 8, 10 and 14. The overall voter turnout was 76%, only marginally lower than 77.76% in 2015.

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Kerala local body elections were a litmus test for CPM-led LDF, Congress-led UDF and BJP-led NDA ahead of the Assembly polls. Follow LIVE Updates here

09:57 (IST)17 Dec 2020
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09:54 (IST)17 Dec 2020
The final numbers

Final figures from the state election commission have come in. Here they are.

Gram panchayats (941)

LDF - 514

UDF - 375

NDA - 23

Others - 29

Block panchayats (152)

LDF - 108

UDF - 44

NDA - 0

Others - 0

District panchayats (14)

LDF - 10

UDF - 4

BJP - 0

Others - 0

Municipalities (86)

UDF - 45

LDF - 35

BJP - 2

Others - 4

Corporations (6)

LDF -3

UDF - 1

(Hung council in Kochi and Thrissur)

21:47 (IST)16 Dec 2020
CM Vijayan thanks Kerala for reposing faith in LDF, terms poll results 'victory for secularism'

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took to Twitter to thank the people for reposing faith in the ruling front. "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," he said.

21:44 (IST)16 Dec 2020
Kitex-backed Twenty20 expands electoral footprint, wins three more panchayats

Twenty20, the corporate social responsibility or CSR wing of KITEX Group that wrested Kizhakkambalam village panchayat in a surprise victory on its electoral debut in 2015, has won three more panchayats in the Kerala local body elections

The apolitical forum has won Aikkarakunnu, Kunnathunadu and Mazhuvannur village panchayats, apart from retaining power in Kizhakkambalam panchayat. Read more here

21:01 (IST)16 Dec 2020
LDF marches on in gram panchayat, block panchayat polls

LDF leading in 514, UDF in 375, NDA in 23 grama panchayats in Kerala. In 44 block panchayats polls, LDF leading in 108, UDF in 44, says State Election Commission.

18:55 (IST)16 Dec 2020
BJP national vice-president A P Abdullakutty's brother loses from Narath village panchayat

BJP national vice-president A P Abdullakutty's brother A P Sharafudeen, who contested from Narath village panchayat in Kannur managed to bag 20 votes and lost.

18:24 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

18:06 (IST)16 Dec 2020
'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. 

17:40 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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?

17:37 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

17:19 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

16:59 (IST)16 Dec 2020
'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. 

16:40 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

16:33 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

16:28 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

16:26 (IST)16 Dec 2020
Explained: 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. Read more here

15:49 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

15:26 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

14:02 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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. 

13:37 (IST)16 Dec 2020
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.

Voters at a polling booth in Malappuram. (Source: Kerala PRD)

In the 2015 polls, the CPM-led LDF won big by taking control of 551 of the 941 village panchayats, 42 of 86 municipalities, 7 of 14 district panchayats, 88 of 152 block panchayats and 4 out of the 6 corporations. The UDF came second by getting reins of 362 panchayats, 7 district panchayats, 2 corporations, 40 municipalities and 63 block panchayats. The BJP could come to power only in 14 panchayats and 1 municipality.

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.

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