Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the first phase of the three-tier local body polls in Kerala concluded on a peaceful note on Tuesday with a turnout of 72.67 per cent recorded in five districts, with the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, Congress-headed UDF and BJP-NDA locking horns in a majority of wards. As per the latest details issued by the state election commission, Alappuzha recorded the highest percentage of voter turnout with 77.23 per cent, while Pathanamthitta recorded 69.70, the lowest in the five districts.
Thiruvananthapuram recorded 69.76 per cent votes, Kollam 73.41 and 74.56 per cent was the voters turnout in Idukki district. A total of 24,583 candidates were in the fray, trying their electoral luck in 6,910 wards of 395 local bodies in the districts-Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Idukki.
Two Corporations- Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, 20 municipalities, 318 village panchayats, 50 block panchayats and 5 district panchayats are among the local bodies where the first phase polling is being held. While state Ministers Kadakampally Surendran and A C Moideen expressed confidence about the Left Front's victory, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said a strong wave in favour of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) was witnessed.
"This shows that people have come out in large numbers to vote against the Left government," Chennithala claimed. "The recent controversies will not make any impact on the winning prospects of the ruling front," Moideen said.
Former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan asserted that the BJP would emerge victorious in the polls. Braving rains, long queues of voters including women could be seen in many wards of Thiruvananthapuram in the initial hours since the voting began on 7.00 am.
Cutting across villages and cities, voters could be seen wearing masks and maintaining social distance adhering to COVID-19 protocol. According to the SEC, a total of 88, 26,873 voters including 46,68,267 women and 61 transgenders are there in the five districts.
The list also includes 150 NRI voters and 42,530 maiden voters. The voting machines were sealed and brought to the strong rooms and the counting would be held on December 16.
The second phase of the elections in Ernakulam, Kottayam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Wayanad would be held on December 10 and the third phase in four districts--Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod on December 14. Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Teeka Ram Meena could not casthis vote for the first phase of the local body polls as his name was not on the voters list.
Meena, who was supposed to cast his vote in the Poojapuraward of Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, noticed his name missing when he reached the polling station. Meena told reporters that his name was there in the voters list for the 2019 Lok Sabha election but found his name missing for the local body polls.
This time, the civic body polls have gained more significance as its result is generally considered to reflect the political mindset of the southern state which would go to Assembly elections after some months. The ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF)'s prime focus during the campaign was the achievements under the four and half-year Pinarayi Vijayan government.
The Congress-led UDF highlighted the controversies relating to the gold smuggling case, the alleged corruption in the Life Mission project and the charges levelled against the Chief Minister's office during the campaign. However, the vigilance cases against various UDF leaders and the arrest of its MLAs V K Ibrahim Kunju and M C Kamaruddin in corruption cases were seen as a setback for them.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is trying everything in its means to find a place in the bipolar polity led by LDF and UDF for decades, is pinning hopes on various development programmes initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre. The present polls is a prestigious fight for the saffron party and its leadership, as they had to repeat its impressive performance in various districts last time..