The Left Democratic Front (LDF) has managed to wrest control of Kollam Corporation for last two decades, a strong testimony to remarkable local governance as per its leaders.
While they plan to continue the winning streak in upcoming local body elections, the United Democratic Front (UDF) is pulling out all stops to bounce back in power after losing back-to-back polls. The Front feels it is the right time with the prevailing political climate being quite favourable. At the same time Bharatiya Janata Party, which only has a minuscule presence in the council, is all geared to pose a stiff opposition to both the fronts in some parts.
According to outgoing Mayor Honey Benjamin, they hardly need any elaborate pre-election exercise as the civic body’s performance speaks for itself. “The Corporation has been focussing on overall development and we have achieved nearly all the goals. Infrastructure of the city got a major boost as all the roads, including every nook and cranny in the Corporation area, are in an excellent condition. We could also successfully implement the drinking water project and more than 4,000 homeless families were provided a roof over their heads through LIFE-PMAY project,” said Ms. Benjamin, who took over from V. Rajendrababu last year.
She lists projects to renovate three major markets in the city, sewage treatment plant at Kureepuzha, and construction of 140 anganwadi buildings among other achievements. “All procedures have been completed for the sewage treatment plant that will be functional within a year. Also, Kollam Corporation came out with exemplary planning during the pandemic. Apart from preventive and containment activities, we provided three meals a day for around 5,000 families in the initial days. We have done everything to ensure the continuity of the LDF rule,” she says.
According to UDF councillor A.K. Hafeez who represents the Thamarakkulam ward in the council, Kollam city remains the same while all other Corporations in the State saw development in massive scale. He points out that Chinnakkada, the bustling business centre at the heart of Kollam city, has come to a standstill after the construction of underpass, a project implemented without any planning or insight. “There is not much change in the infrastructure and civic amenities while Corporation’s waste management system is a disaster. Even when panchayats have a facility to collect waste from houses, we have no such provision. Crores of rupees have been spent on waste disposal projects, but they were abandoned midway. Streetlight installation and replacing the existing lights with LED are instances of corruption.”
He says the latest on the list is an illegal survey conducted by Uralungal Technology Solutions (ULTS), a subsidiary of the Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS), as part of the Corporation’s e-governance and office digitalisation projects. “The survey had more than 100 unnecessary questions related to the medical history of the residents and they were conducting this unauthorised data collection in the midst of a pandemic,” he says.
B. Shylaja, one of the two BJP members in the council representing Thevally ward, says Kollam Corporation failed in every aspect of administration during the last five years. “They took credit for all Central government projects like Pradhan Mantri Awaz Yojana (PMAY), using the funds to build homes and presenting it as LIFE project of the State government.”
She adds that the council’s latest farce of promising housing to all is nothing but an election tactic. “The LDF has been ruling the Corporation for two decades, but it could not properly address the issue of waste disposal. A couple of months before the polls they started laying interlock tiles and road tarring. It is nothing but an eyewash,” she says. Ms. Shylaja also says that several projects that were announced with much fanfare never reached the beneficiaries. “Since the BJP is a minority in the Corporation with only two councillors, we were not treated fairly and we had to fight for expediting project implementation in our wards. But I am confident that the Corporation will see more BJP representatives in the next council,” she adds.