KOCHI: In the last five years, Thrikkakara municipality, which houses Infopark, Cochin Special Economic Zone and the district collectorate, have witnessed the LDF and the UDF calling the shots by turn. This had caused instability and affected smooth governance. Though the UDF had 21 councillors, the LDF 20 in then municipality, everything hinged on a CPM and a Congress rebel.
After the LDF came to power in 2015 with the support of two rebels — one each from the UDF and the LDF — the UDF wrested power with the support of a Congress rebel within two years. In a bid to avoid a factional feud in the party over the post of the chairperson, the UDF had decided to share it among three councillors, including M T Omana, Ajitha Thankappan and Sheela Charu, in the remaining two-and-a-half years. In 2015, the chairperson’s post had been reserved for SC woman candidate.
As per the pact, Omana was to be the chairperson in the first year, Ajitha in the second year and the last six months were for Sheela Charu. But Sheela played spoilsport within six months of Omana’s governance saying she wanted the post during the first term itself, and not at the fag end. With the support of Sheela, LDF ousted Omana and Sheela became the LDF chairperson.
However, based on the complaint of UDF, the State Election Commission disqualified Sheela under the anti-defection law. Following this, both the LDF and UDF lost the majority in the council which led to another election. In the election, LDF came to power after a vote polled by a UDF councillor was annulled. LDF’s Usha Praveen was elected the fourth chairperson of the municipality.
“Yes, it was a tough term for both the fronts as the rebels had decided which front would rule the municipality. But this time around, we would rather not have such a situation. For this, we tried to ensure qualified candidates in each division. Since the chairperson’s seat is reserved for women this time, we have fielded five candidates who are educationally and practically qualified for the job. We are not just working hard to register a victory but to win over 25 seats in the 43-member council,” said M E Hassainar, CPM leader, who has been a comrade for over three decades.
He also said the factional feud in the Congress party is a boon for the LDF. “The UDF has already proved that they are not capable of ruling the municipality with one chairperson. We had witnessed this in the 2010-15 and 2015-20 tenures too. Their intention is not to serve the public but to enjoy the fruits of power,” he added.
Meanwhile, the UDF leadership has already chalked out a plan to register a big win in the municipality. According to the UDF leaders, grassroots work to strengthen the front had started months before the announcement of election dates. “Long before the election notification was issued, we took steps to strengthen the ward and booth-level committees. We have fielded only candidates suggested by these committees. Their opinions have been given due recognition. This has helped us avoid a feud within the party as we can’t be satisfied with a marginal victory. We expect to win over 30 seats,” said Noushad Pallachi, UDF Thrikkakara block president.
However, the ground reality seems to be different as the candidate selection has made several leaders upset. Nearly five UDF rebel candidates are in the fray and they pose a major challenge to the UDF’s victory.The Thrikkakara Jana Munnettam, a non-political forum, which fielded candidates in 36 seats, is a challenge to both fronts. ASHA workers and Kudumbashree members, who have a personal connect with the public, have been selected as the candidates.
“Both the fronts are worried about the menace posed by rebels. Even if a candidate emerges victorious, he/she may become a rebel. The municipality had witnessed this during the tenure of the last council. The presence of Thrikkakara Jana Munnettam candidates will be crucial in the elections as several voters are upset with the performance of the rival fronts,” said a senior party member, who sought anonymity.
Everything depends on reservation
The political parties which approached the High court are awaiting the decision of the State Election Commission on the reservation of chairperson’s post. The seat was reserved for SC woman candidate in the 2015-20 period. “Considering the present situation, the parties have fielded both male and female candidates capable of discharging the duties of the chairperson’s office. Both fronts have also fielded former male councillors if the SEC lifts the reservation,” he added.
anti-Defacement squad removes campaign materials
Kochi: Around 3,865 campaign materials, including posters, banners, flexes, billboards and flags, were removed from various parts of the district for violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) imposed in view of the local body polls. The highest number of items were removed from Kanayannur taluk office limits (908). In all the taluks, the anti-defacement squad, headed by tahsildars, are ensuring that election materials are set up in accordance with the MCC.
As many as 606 election campaign materials were removed in Kochi taluk, 779 in Aluva and 345 in Kunnathunad taluk. In Muvattupuzha taluk, 646 items were removed while 437 and 144 materials were removed in Kothamangalam and Paravur taluk respectively. MCC violations include placing banners and notices and writing graffiti on the walls and surroundings of government offices, campaign materials that cause inconvenience to the public and materials placed on private land without permission.