The civic poll results that will come out next Wednesday will decide the fate of many political heavyweights.
Normally, panchayat elections do not have much bearing on the fate of state politics. This time, however, the situation is different given that there has not been such a pitched battle for a local body that has sparked so much political controversy in recent times.
The result could be heartbreaking or heartwarming for the parties and leaders of the three political fronts in Kerala.
To some extent, the CPM's hope of safeguarding the country's sole Red bastion also depends on the result of the election.
The results of the Kottayam district panchayat election, which is taking place on Thursday, will be crucial for the political future of Jose K Mani and the Kerala Congress (M) led by P J Joseph. The verdict will also give a clear indication of whether Jose or Joseph is the real giant of the Kerala Congress.
Crucial for Pinarayi
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is hoping that a favourable election verdict, which will come out on December 16, will be the much-needed balm in the wake of controversies that have seared his LDF government.
Despite the adverse political climate, he has predicted a victory for the Left Front because of his optimism resulting from the systematic functioning of the LDF, the front’s unity and the welfare schemes of the government. The LDF, however, does not expect dominance similar to that of 2015 or a major setback like the one it suffered in 2010.
The LDF has the upper hand in terms of seat-sharing, candidates’ selection, organisational strength and campaigning and other election-related activities. Despite this, if the Front loses, then even the CPM will have to admit that it is a political setback. Questions will also be raised against the Chief Minister and the administrative leadership.
The verdict may also have a bearing on A Vijayaraghavan, the LDF convener who was also recently appointed as the party secretary. It has to be seen which of the two posts he will retain after the civic polls.
In Kottayam the CPM had pointed out that the LDF could win the Kottayam district panchayat if Jose's party is included in the front. If his party, whose election symbol is two leaves, excels in the polls, Jose K Mani will have the political might to ask for a satisfactory number of Assembly seats; but, if it puts up a poor performance, then it will be under the mercy of the CPM.
A test for Chennithala and Surendran
The local body polls is significant for Ramesh Chennithala, the leader of the opposition, as it heralds the Assembly polls the coming summer. His capability to steer the UDF to victory in a favourable political climate will be known. In case of a disappointing result, the Congress leader will have to deal with concerns about the front’s prospects in the Assembly elections.
KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran will also have to prove that the glittering victory in the Lok Sabha elections was not due to just favourable circumstances. A good show in the election is also necessary to instil the confidence in the UDF that it can return to power.
The first political test of the BJP in Kerala under K Surendran will throw light on his capabilities as a leader of the party. Surendran has been ignoring criticism from within the party in the belief that the election verdict will be a warning to dissenting voices. Disgruntled voices will become louder if the party disappoints at the hustings. The verdict will also decide whether vice-president Shobha Surendan, who stayed away from campaigning, will leave or continue with the party.
A handful of opportunistic local leaders and parties are also waiting for the outcome of the elections, as it will be a pointer to the possibilities ahead of the Assembly election. The big question for now is whether the coming days will witness any big political change?