Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) are set to battle it out in two-phased local bodies polls in Kerala starting Saturday.
The first phase would be held in seven districts - Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kasargode and Kannur - Saturday. Campaigning ends Thursday.
The second phase takes place Oct 25 in another seven districts - Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Trissur, Malappuram and Palakkad.
A record 70,915 candidates are in the fray for 21,612 seats in the three-tier local bodies structure. In the first phase, elections will be held to 9,238 seats. The remaining seats will go to polls in the second phase.
The opposition Congress-led UDF dismisses the notion that these polls would be an indicator to the assembly polls in May next year.
It says in the last three local bodies polls, the Left has always done exceedingly well by winning in more than 60 percent of all seats. But the UDF has come to power in the Kerala assembly on different occasions despite that.
Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor said the Left has always done well in local bodies polls, not because of good governance but because of their good organizational structure.
"Just look into the very poor voting percentage (less than 40 percent) in the Thiruvananthapuram corporations in the last few elections. It is here that the cadre based party does well. We expect the voting percentage to go up everywhere this time," said Tharoor.
The last local bodies polls were held in 2005. All the five corporations in the state are at present governed by the LDF.
Likewise, 11 of the 14 district panchayats, 33 out of 53 municipalities, 114 out of 152 block panchayaths and 688 out of 984 gram panchayats are ruled by the LDF.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has said this election would be a vote on the performance of the Left government led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
But the Left is confident that they have become a more cohesive unit and with their systematic campaign they will continue to dominate.
Vijayan, who has been leading the campaign for the Left, is upbeat.
"There is no doubt that the fortunes of the UDF will dwindle compared to the 2005 polls. A lot of change has taken place since last year`s Lok Sabha polls. People will vote for the numerous schemes that the Left government has come out with and on its stand against religious fundamental groups that are weakening secularism in the state," said Vijayan.
The Left alliance, however, has witnessed desertions, with factions of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and Kerala Congress (Joseph) crossing over to the opposition camp.
Similarly, the lone legislator of the Indian National League and Kerala Congress (Secular) has moved to the opposition camp.
Frequent outbursts by the CPI-M against the Catholic Church has brought glee to the opposition, PDP leader Abdul Nasir Maudany, who was with the Left, is now in Bangalore jail as an accused in the Bangalore blast.