'Karunakaran impact' on local body by-polls?

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Sept. 26. While public attention has been riveted on the Lok Sabha by-election in Ernakulam, 30 panchayat wards in the State quietly went through the process of electing their representatives to the respective local bodies yesterday.

If the results of these elections, announced today, are any indication, the recent political developments have the potential to play havoc with the coalition equations in the State. The Karunakaran faction's grouse against the Chief Minister and the Congress high command appears to have found expression in the results.

Of the 30 wards that went for polls, the LDF came out victorious in 20. The UDF won in only eight wards, leaving the remaining two wards to the BJP.

Exact details of who had been holding these wards previously are not immediately available, but the law of averages is usually seen to place the LDF and the UDF on an even level in most of the panchayat by-elections.

Both the UDF and the LDF will surely put these results under the lens to gauge the overall mood of the voters in the context of the ongoing turmoil in the Congress.

In fact, more than the result of the Ernakulam by-election, which is awaited on September 29, the results from the panchayat wards may provide a truer picture of the current mood in the State. For one thing, Ernakulam Lok Sabha constituency, prior to the latest political developments, was tilted too far in favour of the UDF.

In the last Lok Sabha election, the constituency had given a victory margin of more than one lakh votes to the Congress candidate. This is too big a gap for the LDF to bridge even with all the help it has received from the infighting in the Congress. Further, in the vitiated atmosphere of such a big event, where both Mr. Karunakaran and Mr. Antony have points to prove, many extraneous factors too can come into play, influencing the votes.

The panchayat-level contest, on the other hand, is a clean affair. Especially when it is a by-election in a few scattered wards spread across the State. No big guns boom at the ward level during the campaigning. Nor will anyone claim that a ward by-election is "a referendum on the performance of the State Government''.

But, group loyalties and emotions can have their influence at the ward level.

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