The first lap of the Kerala local self-government elections have come to a close in the five districts — Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, and Idukki — where voting is scheduled for December 8. Being scheduled amidst the Covid pandemic, the election campaigners had to resort to unorthodox strategies and minimal contacts to popularise their contestants. The campaigning took place in social media, rallies had an online presence, and very few people greeted voters at their doors as compared to the previous years. This year, the election commission had not permitted large-scale road rallies and mass gatherings, especially to curb the transmission of the coronavirus.
However, none of this is to say that the local poll campaigning this time around was any different from its previous editions in political content. Parties and candidates took potshots at each other, levelled accusations, and alleged misconducts. This year around, the BJP is a strong contender and Thiruvananthapuram has witnessed a strong triangular competition between the UDF, LDF, and BJP. Meanwhile, the LDF government is knee-deep in allegations following the Chief Minister’s Office facing investigations from central agencies. The UDF isn’t safe either as many of their MLAs are under police scanner for various scams and the top leaders of the Congress facing the bar scam consequences thanks to a renewed interest from the Vigilance. Meanwhile, the BJP is trying to gain momentum amidst this as well as using the party’s many electoral gains around the country to push their presence in Kerala.
The three alliances have used their top leaders in the state for the electoral campaigning despite it being only local polls. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala has been at the forefront campaigning for the UDF candidates and so were other senior party members. While the state BJP leaders were involved, the National leaders were largely missing from the scheme of things. While Union Minister V Muraleedharan, and MP and Film star Suresh Gopi had been the top campaigners for the entire endeavour, characters such as Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National President JP Nadda did not make an appearance. Shaha and Nadda, however, had been very vocal in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, which experts believe, helped the party gain exponentially larger seat share, and even helped take the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi down a notch.
In the missing names from the local poll campaigning in Kerala is Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whose office is steeped in allegations ranging from the gold smuggling to Benami dealings. His former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar and Additional Private Secretary CM Raveendran are both under the scanner of various central agencies. Revolutionary Marxist Party leader KK Rema had said, “Even the party members know that using his [Pinarayi Vijayan] face won’t pull votes, and might even cost voters in this election.” Meanwhile, the political opposition has already pointed out this fact in several of their speeches throughout the campaigning. Importantly, Pinarayi is also the leader of the LDF and his absence has created quite a commotion. While the left campaigners haven’t used Pinarayi’s face or name in any of the election materials, the top brass has claimed that the CM isn’t leading the charge due to Covid concerns and he is available via the digital mediums.
However, Rema had pointed out that Pinarayi had gone to see PK Kunjananthan flouting Covid protocols after the latter’s death. Kunjananthan is one of the left leaders that were sent to prison for the murder of RMP founder TP Chandrasekharan (KK Rema’s husband).
The left leaders have already come out in support of the CM. Polit Bureau member MA Baby had said that the utmost care is needed in this time of Covid spread. “Pinarayi, who is leading the Left campaign, should stay fully healthy. There can’t be any lapse in this and thus we took the decision. Meanwhile, CPM central committee leader MV Govindan said that it’s not his face or presence that is more important, as Pinarayi is the “left front’s driving force”.