On Wednesday afternoon, when the counting of votes of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation ended, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) recorded another victory, winning 51 of the 100 wards. The LDF not only maintained its majority, but also increased its number of seats from 43 in 2015 to 51 in 2020. Second in place, as in the last term, is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with 34 seats, one less than before. But the biggest loss came to the United Democratic Front (UDF) which won only 10 of the 100 wards, 11 less than last time. This is the second time the Congress-led front is pushed to the third place, after BJPâ€™s surprising surge of seats in the 2015 local body polls. The five remaining seats were won by other parties and independent candidates.
The 2020 local body polls were held amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Thiruvananthapuram district recorded 70.04 polling percent. Moreover, the Congress had done a shrill campaign accusing the LDF of corruption, pinning the blame on the Chief Minister himself. The campaign, however, seems to have not paid any extra dividends for the BJP and has not worked at all in the Congress' favour.
â€śIt is an acceptance of the developmental work done by the Corporation with the support of the LDF government in the past five years,â€ť says Rakhi Ravikumar, the LDF candidate who won from the Vazhuthacaud ward of the Corporation for the second time. She has served as Deputy Mayor of the Corporation with VK Prasanth as Mayor and later with Adv K Sreekumar.
In 2015, the BJP had surprised even their own cadres, by winning 35 of the 100 seats and pushing the UDF, which had then been ruling the state, to the third position in the Corporation. For the elections before that, the BJP had won only six seats while the UDF had 40 seats.
This time, the BJP was more confident of making a bigger presence in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, especially after winning an assembly seat in Kerala from the capital for the first time in 2016. Advaid, active Twitter user, comments, "LEFT wins Trivandrum Corporation. Why is this significant? BJP has been claiming since last 1 year that it will win the Capital of Kerala, and an NDA Mayor will receive PM in Thiruvananthapuram. They were claiming that a Corporation with 80+ % Hindu population would easily elect NDA."
From 1877 to 2020
It was in 1984 that a right wing candidate -- Kerala Varma Raja -- came in third place in the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency of Kerala for the first time, but back then they contested as the Hindu Munnani, says columnist Jacob George. Late EMS Namboodiripad, veteran Communist leader and the first elected Chief Minister of the state, was very upset by this.
â€śThat the Hindu Munnani came in third place itself had upset EMS so much. EMS said that it was too serious a political issue and the Hindu forces would be against the LDF because of its association with the All India Muslim League (AIML). Others in the party, like MV Raghavan, were for the idea of including AIML. The disagreement would drive him out of the party and make him find another called Communist Marxist Party (CMP). The point is it was the right wingâ€™s rise to the third place in a Lok Sabha seat that triggered all of this. Whereas the Congress party-led UDF was pushed to the third place in the Corporation in the last local body election and they did little to make up for the loss and reemerge as a powerful force,â€ť says Jacob.
He puts the reason as the Congress party not working enough at the organisational level or getting bothered enough to do their homework.
â€śThey should think of what will be the status of the party in the next assembly election. They should come out with new strategies if they want to make a mark,â€ť Jacob George says.
In the last 10 years, the LDF has been in charge of the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, which has a history of 80 years. It was in 1940 that the first Corporation was set up with nominated members in 24 wards and elected ones in eight others. Before that, in 1877, the Thiruvananthapuram Town Improvement Committee was formed with 19 nominated members, says academic Achuthsankar S Nair. â€śTheir main project was the creation of the Connemara market in Palayam,â€ť he says.
Formation of Corporation
In 1920, the Thiruvananthapuram Municipality was formed and in 1940, the Corporation, with the office at a space opposite the SMV School in Thiruvananthapuram. â€śAn interesting bit of history is from 1947, a little after India won independence when Varadarajan Nair became Mayor. He was the son of the erstwhile Travancore Diwan P Rajagopalachari, who had ordered newspaper editor Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai to exile. One of the first duties Varadarajan did as Mayor was to receive the ashes of Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai for a memorial in his name,â€ť Achuthsankar says.
It was in 1962 that the present building of the Corporation was built, and in 1966, got inaugurated by Indira Gandhi, the then PM of India.
In the first many years of its formation, it was the Congress party that ruled the Corporation. â€śThe first time a CPI(M) supported candidate becomes the Mayor is in 1973, when Gopinanthan Nair won and MP Padmanabhan of the Socialist Party became Deputy Mayor,â€ť says Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan, historian.
The LDF won for the next few years till the party split when MP Raghavan left the CPI(M) and founded CMP. His party candidates became Mayor several terms until in 2010, when once again the LDF took over the Corporation.