As the local body elections in Kerala are nearing, over 1.68 lakh candidates have filed nominations till 9 PM on Thursday, November 19, the last day of filing nominations. Of these, as many as 3,130 nominations were rejected during the scrutiny on Friday. The final list of candidates in the election fray is yet to be clear since the nominations can be withdrawn till November 23.
According to the latest update from State Election Commision, of the total 1,68,028 candidates, as many as 1,23,858 nominations are for the polls to grama panchayats, 14,195 for the block panchayat polls and 2,830 for district panchayats. While 22,798 nominations have been filed for municipalities and 4,347 for six corporations across the state. However, 2,215 nominations for grama panchayat have been rejected, 305 were rejected in block panchayats, 133 to district panchayats, 477 to municipalities and 121 to corporations.
Beginning from the first week of December, over 2.71 crore voters in the state will head to the polling booths to cast their votes to elect representatives to 1,200 local self-governing bodies--41 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 86 municipalities and six municipal corporations. The local body elections are scheduled to be held in three phases from December 8. In the first phase on December 8, five districts- Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathnamthitta, Alappuzha and Idukki- will go to polling. In the second phase, which is scheduled on December 10, Kottayam Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Wayanad and in the third phase on December 14, remaining four districts of Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod will go to polls.
As the dates are nearing, the election campaigns across the state have turned gained momentum, while adhering to the strict COVID-19 protocols. While the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led Left Democratic Front gives prominence to young cadres and women cadres in their candidate list, Congress led United Democratic Front and BJP-led National Democratic Alliance have been hesitant to give seats for youngsters and women.
Also read: Kerala Gears Up for Three-cornered Fight in Local Body Elections amid Covid-19 Protocols
In Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, which has been witness to serious triangular fights in the past, the Left plank has fielded young women candidates along with some experienced ones. Out of the 100-ward corporation, CPI(M) is contesting for LDF from 70 seats and of this, 46 are women candidates many of them below 30.
Twenty-one years old Arya Rajendran, who leads LDF at Mudavanmugal ward, is the youngest one in the list. She is the state president of Balasangam, a children's organisation, a state committee member of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and a branch committee member of CPI(M).
Another young candidate, Gayathri Babu, 23, from Vanchiyoor ward is preparing for her PhD. She has landed in the election fray straight from Pondicherry Central University, where she was doing her Masters in Economics.
Clearly, the party is fielding women in 66% of its 70 seats, and many of them are young, under 30 years of age like Arya and Gayathri.
While BJP has fielded its prominent leaders to bag maximum seats in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. BJP’s district president and prominent face in Kerala VV Rajesh is the NDA candidate from Poojapura ward. Former district president S Suresh is also in the fray in the district panchayat election from Venganoor division of the district panchayat.
Considering the Left front’s prominence to youngsters, the youth Congress seems to be unhappy with their own party’s seat distribution. Only one youth congress member has been given a chance to be the face of UDF in the upcoming elections in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, with Vivek H Nair from Palkkulangara division.
Youth Congress state vice president NS Nusoor has gone as far as criticising the leadership for not giving adequate chances for the youth in the party. The case is similar across the state.
Conflict within BJP
Amid these, the inner party fights in UDF and NDA are also posing hurdles for the opposition fronts in the state. On Friday, the state office bearers of BJP had met in Kochi to discuss the strategies for the local body polls. The meeting, however, was marked with the absence of Sobha Surandran, one of the prominent leaders of BJP in the state.
Along with Sobha Surendran, JR Padmakumar who is the state treasurer, O Rajagopal, CK Padmanabhan and PK Krishnadas also stayed away from the meeting. The Kerala chapter of BJP has been struggling with internal issues especially after K Surendran had taken over the position of state president.
A few weeks earlier, Sobha had raised a complaint against BJP state president Surendran criticising him of trying to end her political career. Raising the same concern, she wrote to the national leadership of BJP as well. As elections are nearing, the issues in the BJP state unit are intensifyinf which can prove to be a headache for the party trying to grab a prominent role in Kerala’s political space.