Sharuthi P, a final-year law student is 22 years old and is all excited about the Kerala local body elections to be held in December. Sharuthi, a candidate of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), starts early in the morning on her bike and visits houses in ward No 1 of Elavanna grama panchayat in Kozhikode.
A girl riding a bike, talking to everyone she meets on the road requesting support, symbolizes a generation shift in Kerala politics. Sharuthi is not the only one… several educated young men and women are contesting the local body elections in Kerala this time. The trend seen in Kerala’s local body election indicates that ‘educated youth uninterested in politics’ may become a story of the past.
The civic body elections are scheduled to be conducted in three phases on December 8, 10 and 14 with all political parties busy finalizing their candidates. So far, the Left Democratic Front, headed by CPI(M), has taken the lead in declaring its candidates for most local bodies. Other coalitions – the United Democratic Front and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – are yet to catch up.
LDF is experimenting this time by offering tickets to youngsters, students, women and even Dalits in general category seats. In Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, CPI(M) is contesting 70 seats (out of 100), of which 46 are women candidates.
CPI is contesting 18 seats with seven women in the list, mostly youngsters. “A lot of young men and women have come into social activities since the floods of 2018,” says A.A. Rahim, the secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the youth wing of the CPI(M).
The BJP too has more women candidates than mandated by the fifty per cent reservation rule. “We are still finalizing the list. Now we have 54 women candidates out of 100 in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation,” said K. Surendran, the Kerala BJP chief, told The Federal. He said the BJP too is planning to field Dalits in general category seats.
The Congress-led UDF is yet to come up with its list of candidates since it is struggling to resolve conflicts in several districts.
While local issues gain prominence in civic elections, this poll is seen by parties as a dress rehearsal for the assembly election due next year.
The LDF is quite confident of a good show next year as it counts development works done by the government like housing for the homeless and poor, modernization and renovation of health care institutions, infrastructure development in school education etc.
On the other hand, both UDF and NDA have plenty of issues to complain against the government. The recent allegations of scams investigated by multiple central agencies, gold smuggling, and the alleged involvement of the CM’s office in it, are being effectively used by the opposition parties during campaigning.