With a charged-up LDF looking to dent the political hegemony of the ruling UDF, the battle for the Kottayam municipality is expected to be a tough contest this time.
The fight for the local body, as for the entire Central Travancore, has become all the more exciting ever since the Kerala Congress (M) faction led by Jose K. Mani has given up its decades-long association with the Congress to join the Left coalition.
All eyes are now on how effective this new association, which till a few months ago was regarded as most unlikely if not impossible, will turn out to be.
While the departure of the Mani group has helped the coalition to accommodate more seat aspirants this time, the sharing of seats has not come without disputes. The Congress, which contests in as many as 48 seats, has to deal with rebels in four seats while the Indian Union Muslim League and the KC(M) P.J. Joseph group contest in three and one seat respectively.
Notwithstanding reports on the discontent brewing in the rank and file over the sharing of seats along group lines, the UDF hopes to win at least 32 seats this time.
“The exit of the Mani group has indeed presented a new headache, but the UDF, as a traditional favourite, still holds the edge,” observed a senior Congress leader.
The LDF, meanwhile, has the task cut out if it has to stage an upset win. Bolstered by the entry of the KC(M) Mani group, the coalition has launched an intense campaign across wards and hopes to maintain the initial momentum till the end.
“Electioneering is going on in full swing right from the booth level while social media networks too have been activated,” said V.N. Vasavan, CPI(M) district secretary.
Of the 52 seats, the CPI(M) contests in as many as 33 seats while the CPI has fielded candidates in eight seats. The new entrant, KC(M), has been given adequate representation by allotting seven seats while the remaining four seats are shared between the remaining allies.
The National Democratic Alliance, which has fielded candidates in 48 seats, hopes to improve its overall tally to two digits and has based its poll plank mainly on the administrative gains of the Narendra Modi government and the ‘corrupt administration’ of the LDF government in the State and the UDF municipal council. During the previous election in 2015, the coalition won six wards and of this the BJP won five.
Meanwhile, the considerable influence wielded by some Independent candidates in certain wards has added to the concerns of the major coalitions.
As many as three Independents had won in the previous election to the municipal council here while the council elected in 2010 had nine Independents in it.