The Thiruvananthapuram city Corporation, touted as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) gateway to power in Kerala, remained elusive for the party, as the Left Democratic Front (LDF) coasted to a thumping victory in the local body elections when results were declared on Wednesday.
Considering the circumstances and the challenges facing it, including anti-incumbency at the State and local level, its improvement in tally from 43 wards in 2015 to the simple majority mark of 51 wards this year is quite an achievement for the LDF.
The BJP which had made major gains in 2015, improving its tally from six seats to 35, remained almost static at 34 seats. Though it lost a few sitting seats, it managed to retain many of its wards in the Nemom Assembly constituency as well as win a few sitting seats of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the LDF. The party’s massive, expensive campaign of “a BJP Mayor for Thiruvananthapuram,” featuring celebrities, failed to garner the desired results.
Major jolt for UDF
It is for the UDF that the results have come as a major jolt, as it was pushed to the third place for a second consecutive term, with a mere 10 wards in the kitty. The result could lead to rumblings within the front as well as within the Congress on candidate selection in some wards, which had led to criticism. All through the counting, the UDF was never in the picture, as it became a direct fight between the LDF and the BJP.
In the Nedumcaud ward, the UDF candidate, of the Forward Block, polled only 74 votes, thus paving the way for the LDF Mayor candidate S. Pushpalatha’a narrow defeat to BJP’s Ajithkumar, even though she polled 3,442 votes.
TVM makes no impact
The Thiruvananthapuram Vikasana Munnettam (TVM), a party floated by a collective of capital-based social media groups, real estate, trade and professional organisations, failed to make any impact in the 14 seats it contested. The party got only double digit votes in five wards and scored above thousand in a ward.
Though the LDF achieved a commendable victory, some of the sheen was taken away by the defeats of outgoing Mayor K. Sreekumar as well as possible Mayor candidates S. Pushpalatha and A.G. Oleena. The victory of another possible Mayor candidate P. Jameela has come as a relief for the front. The LDF won in some Congress strongholds in the coast, such as Valiyathura, and in the urban areas, in Kesavadasapuram and Pattom.
The LDF had the advantage of hitting the ground early, having identified their candidates and begun campaigning, much before the Opposition fronts. The focussed, grassroots-level campaign led by the likes of V.K. Prasanth, MLA, who was the Mayor for four of the past five years, paid rich dividends for the LDF. The simple majority would give it the power to pass important decisions in the council, even if the BJP and the UDF oppose.