The stage is set for a stiff electoral battle in the Nedumangad municipality where the Left Democratic Front (LDF) will look to fend off challenges posed by rival coalitions to extend its 25-year-long rule.
While a cursory glance of results during the last few decades might suggest the Left held sway in the local body, a closer scrutiny would highlight several hard-fought contests that they had with the United Democratic Front (UDF) when the outcomes hinged on the political stance of rebel-turned-independents.
Barring the 2015 local body elections when the LDF had won comfortably by winning 22 out of 39 seats, none of the other contests have been as lopsided. While the UDF failed to wrest power by one seat in at least two occasions, the rebel menace among the Congress ranks bogged them down in others.
The local body, which had 48,264 registered voters in 2015, has a 55,966-strong electorate this time. Those eligible to cast votes include 30,086 women, 25,879 men and one transgender.
Even while the municipality has its chairperson seat reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) Women for the first time, the dominant presence of the Nair community in the region has considerably influenced the selection of candidates.
While it hoped to counter anti-incumbency by projecting its achievements, the LDF has been beset by problems during the seat-sharing process. While the CPI (M) offered to allot a seat each to the LDF constituents Congress (S) and Janata Dal much to the opposition raised by CPI, the coalition finally decided against the move. The CPI (M) will now contest in 31 seats, while the CPI will field their candidates in the rest.
The LDF has three chairperson frontrunners Rajika S. in Mannoorkonam, Sreekala B.K. in Valiyamala and Sreeja T. in Paramuttom. CPI (M) Nedumangad area committee secretary R. Jayadevan expressed optimism that the LDF will better its best-ever performance in 2015 to win over 25 seats.
Having suffered defeats due to infighting in the past, the UDF has projected a confident image this time thanks to the rather smooth allocation of seats. Congress Nedumangad block committee president S. Arun Kumar, who attributed their last defeat to the presence of rebels in six seats which they lost by slender margins, said the coalition is certain to win between 19 and 23 seats. While the Congress will contest in 30 seats, a Muslim League-backed Independent will contest in Perumala ward where the UDF had lost by six votes last time.
Keeping their cards close to their chest, the UDF has projected a veteran three-time councillor J. Geetha from Paramuttom and a political novice M.R. Meera from Netta as their chairperson-hopefuls.
Despite being dismissed as pushovers by the other coalitions, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has set their sights on nothing less than capturing power or playing kingmaker in the next council. While the BJP decided to contest in 38 seats and spare one for Kamaraj Congress, the BDJS has been left high and dry.
Palippuram Vijayakumar, the BJPs Nedumangad constituency president, said the NDA is bound to benefit immensely from rifts within other coalitions that prompted many workers to switch loyalties.