December 20, 2020

A Resounding Victory in Kerala

THE Local Self-Governing Institutions (LSGI) elections in Kerala have resulted in a resounding victory for the Left Democratic Front.  The LDF has won 11 out of the 14 district panchayats; 108 of the 152 block panchayats; and 514 of the 941 grama panchayats.  The LDF has won five of the six corporations and 35 of the 86 municipalities.

It is significant that the LDF has improved overall upon the success it registered in the 2015 elections, five years ago. At that time, the Congress-led UDF state government was in power.  These elections were held after four and a half years of the LDF government.  So, the verdict can be seen as popular approval for the performance of the Pinarayi Vijayan government and the LSGIs.

The record of the LDF government with its wide-ranging development initiatives like the Life Mission (housing), Aardram (health), upgrading and modernisation of government schools and enhanced social security benefits have contributed to this popular mandate.

The LSGIs in Kerala are a model for the rest of the country. It was the LDF government in 1996, nearly 25 years ago, which effectively decentralised powers to the local bodies and provided the legislative back up to devolve finances to them.  The three-tier panchayat system in Kerala has clearly demarcated powers and responsibilities to institutions under them.  Government schools and hospitals upto the district levels and institutions that have a bearing on the everyday life of the people like agriculture, fisheries, micro-irrigation and small-scale industrial  sectors are under the jurisdiction of the three-tier panchayats.  They are responsible for the upkeep of roads and provision of basic services such as housing, sanitation and drinking water facilities.

Apart from the delivery of basic services to people, in the last four and a half years under the LDF government, the empowered local bodies have performed remarkably in dealing with the serious flood situation in 2018 and 2019 and in tackling the Covid pandemic.  The nearly 1,200 local bodies put up a sterling performance along with the state government in spreading awareness about the Covid disease, gathering data on Covid-affected persons, implementing quarantine norms and ensuring of essential commodities to the people, particularly those affected by the disease.

But this performance, or, the issues connected with local developments were not the concern of the opposition – the Congress-led UDF and the BJP.  Their election campaign was solely directed at scandal mongering and levelling baseless allegations about corruption against the chief minister and ministers of the LDF government and the leaders of the CPI(M).  Aided and abetted by the mainstream media, the people were subject to the disinformation campaign regarding the gold smuggling case and the concocted charges of wrongdoing in the Life Mission and other governmental programmes. The central agencies, like the ‘enforcement directorate’, were utilised to malign the LDF government in the run-up to the election with motivated leaks to the media.

Both the Congress and the BJP competed with each other in making this false propaganda.  This was the only way the Congress-BJP hoped to discredit the LDF as they sought to divert the attention of the people from the exemplary record of service to the people by the LDF government and the LSGIs.

The people of Kerala have rejected this negative and scurrilous campaign and voted on the basis of their own experience of the LDF government’s record.

The results show the UDF has been defeated in its bastions like Kottayam district and the Kochi Municipal Corporation. The BJP which targeted winning the Thiruvanthapuram Municipal Corporation ended up getting a seat less than the last time.

This is a well-deserved victory for the LDF. It will revitalize and strengthen the LSGIs which have so vital a part in Kerala’s development story.  This victory should boost the confidence and morale of the LDF as it prepares for the assembly elections which are to be held in April-May next year.

(December 16, 2020)