Women's quota: Civic polls set to create history in Kerala

Political parties are working overtime to get their act together for the elections, scheduled for October 23 and 25,as it is seen as a dress rehearsal for the assembly elections due in May next with the main fight between the ruling CPI-M led LDF and opposition UDF spearheaded by Congress.

Though parties are finding it hard to get the right candidates for the seats reserved for women as most young women in the state are career-oriented,the quota is certain to bring in a major change in the state's political scene.

The election is an acid test for the LDF which suffered a drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls last year when the Congress and allies grabbed 16 of the 20 seats.It would be a tough task for the LDF to retain its hold over majority of local  bodies which it won last time since the ministry is facing a host of problems, mainly linked to Finance and Education departments, and questions are being raised about the lack of collective responsibility.
Allegations of corruption are also doing the rounds with the Opposition charging CPI-M, leading partner of the ruling Left Democratic Front, with helping the `lottery mafia' operating in the state.

The Finance department's inept handling of the `other state lottery mafia' has also come in for criticism. The United Democratic Front also blames the government for `sabotaging' the Panchayati Raj system by failing to distribute funds to local bodies properly which stalled development.

"Devolution of funds to local bodies had been a failure in the last five years," Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy said.

The Opposition is also likely to raise in their campaign the issue of the fiasco in the education sector connected with the admission procedure to self-financing educational colleges in the state which eludes solution even after four years of LDF rule.The sufferings of landless tribals is another issue the UDF would bring in their campaign, Front sources said.

The main plank of the LDF, which has a tougher battle ahead as they have to retain their prevailing supremacy in the village, block and district panchayats as well as urban bodies,will be the rise in the price of essential commodities, a fall-out of the hike in petroleum prices effected by the Congress-led UPA government at the centre.MORE PTI
LDF would also point out how the prices could be controlled to an extent in Kerala, with the effective market intervention programmes of the government and its agencies.
The ruling Front also seeks to have local arrangements with small groups with allegiance to the Left for the polls. Though the CPI-M has closed doors on Abdul Nasser Madani's PDP, certain independents might come up with CPI-M support in places where PDP has influence, according to observers.

CPI-M leaders have started charging the UDF with appeasing fundamentalist elements like Popular Front and its political outfit Socialist Democratic Party of India, with an eye on Hindu votes.

BJP, the third force in the state which is trying hard to keep their sitting seats in influential pockets, would focus on local issues in their campaign, party sources said.
While LDF has almost completed its seat-sharing exercise and named most of its candidates, the UDF is still struggling to get into the campaign mode following wranglings within the Front with alliance partners demanding more seats from the Congress for different reasons.

The main problem troubling the UDF is the entry of new parties to the Front. With the merger of Kerala Congress-J with KC-M, the latter is demanding more seats. Congress also will have to find seats for Socialist Janata (Democratic) led by M P Veerendrakumar, which quit the LDF to join UDF.

State Election Commission sources said the coming election would be the `cleanest' in the state with the Commission banning plastic flex boards for campaign.Polls in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod will be held on October 23.

Idukki, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad and Malappuram districts would go to polls on October 25. Results would be declared on October 27 and new bodies formed on November 1, Kerala Formation Day.

Elections are to be held for 21,612 wards in 1,208 local bodies. here are 98 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 59 municipalities and five corporations.

State Election Commission will set up 40,000 polling booths to help 2.25 crore voters to exercise their franchise. Electronic voting machines would be used in municipalities and corporations while ballot boxes would be used in three-tier panchayats.

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