26 lakh voters to exercise their franchise in first phase of polling in five districts on Tuesday
Stakes are high for the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF), United Democratic Front (UDF) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as an estimated 26 lakh voters prepare to exercise their franchise in the first phase of the local body elections in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Idukki districts on Tuesday.
The Local self-government institutions (LSGI) elections, widely seen as a bellwether of Kerala’s voting behaviour, has the potential to set the State’s political trajectory ahead of the Assembly elections in 2021.
The LDF sees an opportunity to cement a victory on the merit of its governance record. It feels a local body win would power its bid for a second innings in power next year.
In contrast, Congress and BJP exuded confidence that voters, revolted by ‘corruption and criminality’ in the administration, would deliver a crushing repudiation to the Pinarayi Vijayan government.
The LSGI polls seem far from being a straightforward triangular fight. The three opposing fronts have accused each other of entering into secret electoral understandings at the ward level and feared cross-voting could upset their calculations.
The alliances also feared that political realignments had altered the electoral landscape by some measure. The LDF, UDF and NDA had found themselves fighting on new fronts while striving to prevent their traditional strongholds from falling into the hands of opponents.
For instance, the BJP strongly felt that it had improved its acceptance among minorities, especially Christians, and made inroads into the traditionally Left backward class vote base.
The LDF feels that the induction of Jose. K. Mani faction of the Kerala Congress (M) would improve its chances in traditionally pro-UDF Central Travancore.
The UDF felt the corruption in the government had vexed traditional LDF voters and they would vote for the Congress-led alliance. The LDF and UDF saw a scant chance for the NDA’s brand of majoritarian politics in Kerala.
The alliances were equally apprehensive that the COVID-19 scare would suppress voter turnout. It seemed not lost on them that the LSGI elections are being held in an unusual year. The pandemic has upended the economy, forced the closure of businesses and caused the loss of jobs.
Hence, political agents and election workers spent much of Monday knocking on doors, issuing slips and attempting to coax supporters to overcome their inertia and vote early so that a possible low turnout did not hamper their winning prospects.
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