An interesting battle is shaping up in the Varkala municipality where the Left Democratic Front (LDF) is hoping to retain its grip on the 33-ward local body by parading its achievements on the development front.
While the United Democratic Front (UDF) is looking to upset the LDF cart and recover lost ground, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which pocketed three seats in 2015 is expecting a noteworthy improvement in its electoral fortunes in Varkala.
State-level political issues aside, development – or the pitiful lack of it, as the Congress and the BJP see it – will be the key poll plank as this picturesque coastal municipality prepares to vote.
In 2015, the CPI(M)-LDF had wrested the municipality from the UDF by winning 18 of 33 seats. The CPI(M) in fact won the majority – 17 seats – on its own in 2015, while ally CPI added one seat to the LDF tally. The UDF, which had seized Varkala with 18 seats in 2010, had to settle for 12 last time. In 2010, the BJP had won only the Perumkulam ward. Though it lost the ward to CPI(M) in 2015, it managed to corner the Punnamoodu, Temple and Chaluvila wards. The BJP is quite confident of increasing the tally this time.
The rebel menace plagues the three fronts in varying degrees. The UDF has to contend with unrest within its camp. Ally IUML, annoyed over the denial of seats by the Congress, is fielding candidates independently in seven coastal wards. Bindu Haridas, the CPI(M) chairperson in the 2015-2020 council, is contesting from the Pullanikode ward this time.
Statistics-wise, the Varkala municipality has 33 wards. As per the final voters’ list published by the State Election Commission, the municipality has 32,985 voters including 17,985 women and 15,000 men.
The LDF hopes to continue in power on the strength of the development activities undertaken by LDF at the State-level and in Varkala, said Sathyadevan V., the CPI(M) campaign manager.
“The CPI(M) is contesting from 28 seats and the CPI in five seats. The situation is favourable for the LDF,” he said.
The UDF hopes to win over voters by highlighting a lack of development initiatives in the municipality.
“The LDF cannot claim to have undertaken any developmental activities whatsoever in the past five years. The municipality was more or less orphaned during the LDF rule,” says former MLA Varkala Kahar, who is helming the campaign. Efforts are continuing to sort out issues with the IUML leadership, he said.
“This time, our focus is not just on increasing the tally, but capturing the municipality itself,” says Ajulal A., the BJP campaign manager.
The BJP is contesting in 31 seats, while NDA ally BDJS has been allocated two seats. The BJP had performed exceedingly well in Varkala when senior party leader Sobha Surendran contested from Attingal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he said.