KOCHI: Anti-incumbency or no anti-incumbency, emerging victorious in the coming elections to the Kochi corporation will be easier said than done for rival LDF and UDF, it seems.
The reason: threat posed by dissidents who will be in the fray on their own in protest against the choice of candidates by the Congress-led combine which called the shots in the outgoing council and then Opposition CPM-headed LDF.
According to the reports, as many nine rebel candidates, which include some prominent faces, are all set to try their luck in the civic polls. They include Gracy Joseph, Deleena Pinhero and Mary Kalista Prakasan from the UDF camp and Preethy K H, Bindu Levin and Jayanthi Premnath from the LDF.
Even the Muslim League (IUML) a constituent of the UDF, is facing the rebel menace this time round with senior leader TK Ashraf rebelling against the party’s move to deny tickets to those who had already served two terms.
Another prominent face in the rebel ranks is former mayor KJ Sohan, who is contesting in protest against the LDF's denial of seat to the Loktantrik Janata Dal. Mahesh Kumar, a former CPM councillor who switched allegiance to the UDF recently, is pitted against the official CPM candidate in Kunnumpuram.
Interestingly, these rebel candidates enjoy considerable goodwill among voters due to the development initiatives undertaken by them in their respective areas. Moreover, they had won by a big margin in the 2015 corporation elections.
"The work that I have done in the last 10 years is enough for people to judge me. I command the wholehearted support of people and that gives me the strength to contest the election against the official UDF candidate in Kaloor south division," said Gracy Joseph who was suspended by the District Congress Committee for defying the party diktats.
Some of the outgoing councillors and political observers too are convinced that the rebel candidates hold the aces this time round. “Gracy Joseph, who won the last election securing a majority of 1,087 votes, and Mary Kalista, whose husband won by a margin of 2,179 votes in the last election, are contesting against party candidates. Even the others, who are in the fray as rebel candidates, wield enough clout among voters.
“They will play a major role in deciding the winner. Even the LDF and UDF will have to bargain with them to get a majority in the council," said a former councillor and political observer on condition of anonymity.
The BJP-led NDA, which is the third player in the fray, too is plagued by rebel menace. Following this, the party district leadership decided to drop Syamala S Prabhu, who had served more than four terms from the west Kochi division.