KOCHI: The Kochi Corporation deputy mayor’s election on Wednesday is likely to be a cliffhanger. For, both the ruling UDF, which has a wafer-thin margin in the local body, and the opposition LDF are clueless about its outcome.
Factional feud in ally Congress is what’s worrying the UDF, which has fielded ‘I’ group councillor KR Premakumar, who represents the Konam division of the civic body. LDF, which has fielded opposition leader in the council KJ Antony, is keenly watching who BJP’s two councillors will favour.
The election was necessitated after TJ Vinodh resigned from the post after getting elected as Ernakulam MLA. With his exit, UDF is left with 37 councillors in the 74-member corporation council while LDF has 34.
Bumpy ride for UDF
In all likelihood, things will not be smooth for the UDF in the election as nearly 10 councillors, including women representatives Geetha Prabhakar (independent) and UDF’s Jose Mary, had openly opposed the leadership’s plan to remove Mayor Soumini Jain from the post. Of the 10 councillors, three have already threatened non-participation in the election if Jain is removed.
If they do stay away, or worse, vote against the UDF, the votes of the BJP councillors will decide who wins.“We are clueless about the poll’s outcome. Though we have majority, factional feud is a worrying factor for us,” said a UDF councillor seeking anonymity.
“UDF’s whip won’t deter some councillors who are hell-bent on defying the leadership. Most of them are upset over the likely change of guard in the corporation and the election will give them a chance to show how unhappy they are,” said the leader.
The stand taken by MPs Hibi Eden and Benny Behanan, MLA VD Satheesan, besides K Babu and Dominic Presentation in the corporation will also play a major role in deciding the deputy mayor. "A leadership change in the corporation is not needed right now as the present council’s term ends in just 10 months. Though the KPCC president backed Jain, some leaders are supporting a first-time councillor to replace her. This too will play a major role in the election," said a UDF councillor.
LDF expects to reap benefits from Congress feud
The LDF is expecting to reap benefits from the factional feud in the Congress. “Though the numbers in the corporation favour UDF, many of its councillors are upset with the administration and the leadership’s approach. Some have openly threatened to resign. While we are not in a position to reveal how many votes will go against UDF, it will be more than they expect,” said KJ Antony.
Infighting intensifies over UDF fielding Hindu candidate
Factional feud in the Congress has intensified with the leadership deciding to field a Hindu candidate for the deputy mayor post. The leaders said the move aims at removing Jain, a Hindu, from the post. “Ex-deputy mayor Vinodh is a Latin Catholic while Premakumar is a Hindu. Since the mayor is also a Hindu, Premakumar’s victory will upset the community equation. Even the heads of various churches approached the Congress leadership to depute their nominee for the top post in the corporation. Though there was a plan to field K D Martin in Wednesday’s election, the district leadership decided against it,” said a source.
UDF issues whip
The District Congress Committee on Tuesday issued a whip to all its 37 councillors to ensure Premakumar’s victory. However, sources in the party said a whip was not the final solution to ensure the councillors’ votes in Premakumar’s favour.