Debates on corruption, scams, political violence and shifts in political tie-ups have dominated the election campaign in the four northern districts going to the polls on Monday.
Of the four northern districts, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) traditionally has sway in local body elections in Kasaragod, Kannur and Kozhikode districts, while Malappuram, being the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) bastion, remains rock solid behind the United Democratic Front.
How the major parties and fronts fare in their traditional strongholds will be keenly watched as they are fighting fiercely in the election. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is also no less combative on the election from the region this time.
What is being keenly watched in the local body elections in the four districts is the electoral outcome of the local electoral tie-up of the UDF with the Welfare Party of India (WPI) of the Jamaat-e-Islami. In the 2015 elections, the LDF had seat adjustments with the WPI in several local bodies in the region including the Mukkam municipality in Kozhikode.
The UDF leadership’s divergent takes on the tie-up are seen as a reflection of the rumblings within the UDF over the tie-up. The Samastha Sunni faction, which is pro-IUML, has taken a stand against the seat adjustments with the WPI.
Corporations in focus
One of the major highlights of the elections in the four districts is the poll outcomes in the Kozhikode and Kannur Corporations. Both the UDF and the LDF, which in the last term alternately ruled the Kannur Corporation with the support of a Congress rebel councillor, are keen to capture the civic body. The Kozhikode Corporation has been run by the LDF for over four decades.
While the LDF during the electioneering has made much use of the arrests of IUML leader and MLA M.C. Kamaruddin in a gold jewellery scam in Kasaragod and former Public Works Minister V.K. Ebrahim Kunju over the Palarivattom flyover scam and the bribery case against IUML leader and MLA K.M. Shaji, the Supreme Court’s rejection of the State government’s plea challenging the High Court’s order for CBI probe into the murders of Youth Congress workers Kripesh and Sarath Lal came in handy for the UDF. The UDF also highlighted the case of gold smuggling through diplomatic baggage in which the Chief Minister’s former Principal Secretary M. Sivasankar has been arrested. The LDF’s major campaign theme was the welfare schemes and pensions instituted by the LDF government.
The BJP, for its part, went full throttle playing up the various Centre-sponsored schemes launched by the Narendra Modi government.