Possibly for the first time in the history of the country, a private company which openly fielded candidates for the panchayat elections has won a major victory against established political parties.
The elections in the Kizhakkambalam panchayat in Ernakulam district have been closely watched by the entire state as the Anna-Kitex Group of Companies, one of the largest private sector companies in the state, won 17 seats in Kizhakkambalam village in Ernakulam district. It had contested all 19 wards. (Results are yet to come in 4 seats).
The victory is no simple one, the panchayat was UDF's bastion.
Last month, the company had announced that it would contest the polls through its CSR arm Twenty20, as it was fed up of the alleged harassment from the panchayat officials.
The company has maintained that it wanted to turn the village of around 8,500 families into a model village with the best amenities, but that its work was being hampered by local political leaders cutting across party lines.
"We are moving with a vision to transform Kizhakkambalam into the best panchayat of the country by 2020. The group has invested around `28 crore in the last two years for development projects in the panchayat. We are hopeful of winning 70 per cent of the votes,” Sabu M Jacob, Managing Director of Kitex Garments had told The New Indian Express in October.
The outgoing panchayat president however has said that while the company had implemented several infrastructure projects such as roads and housing projects, its production unit had caused pollution.
Jolly Baby told The Indian Express last month, “They want to gain control of the panchayat for the smooth operation of their company. We had denied licence to them, citing contamination of water and wetlands. By gaining control of the panchayat, the group wants to have the final say in such matters.”
The same report had also quoted the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders as saying that they were opposed to a corporate company contesting elections.
This contention between the villagers, the company and the political parties ensured that voter turn out was high. Held over two days, the village panchayat saw around 90 percent votes polled. In the previous elections voter turn out was 84.3 percent.
Though the company has touted this as a victory for public sentiment, some critics have warned that a private company led front taking over public administration is a bad precedent.