People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 42

October 17, 2010



On Kerala Panchayat Elections


N S Sajith


KERALA, the tiny southern state is recognised for its contribution especially in education, public health and decentralisation, and its achievements have been considered as model of development attained through equitable distribution in the back drop of comparatively low economic growth. The state which has made a giant leap in the fields of decentralisation and women empowerment through projects like Kudumbashree, is going to witness another edition of local body elections in the month of October. Kerala has three tier local self government system that came in to existence on October 2, 1995, after the 73rd and 74th amendments of Indian constitution. The foremost and distinguishing character of this election which is scheduled to be held in two phases ie, on October 23 and 25, is the implementation of 50 per cent women’s reservation. Elections for 76 municipalities and 5 city corporations will also be held along with this. The reservation is not confined to only the number of candidates, it is implemented at the level of elected posts as well.  Women presidents are going to lead more than 50 per cent of panchayats, municipalities and city corporations. On November 1, the 54th anniversary of formation of Kerala state, out of 1209 elected presidents, 606 women will take oath and assume the power.


Kerala has the long tradition of nurturing self government and decentralisation. Even the non-communists may admit that whole credit of this triumph goes to the communist party led governments. Kerala’s History of the decentralisation process starts right from the first ministry led by the legendary communist leader E M S Namboodiripad. Soon after assuming power in 1957, E M S ministry took a historical decision to form administrative reforms committee to look into various aspects of decentralisation. This move was aimed to introduce political decentralisation through the constitution of elected district governments.  Though this committee under the chairmanship of chief minister E M S really ignited the process, unfortunately the renegade forces of the rightwing toppled the elected government with the help of Congress party’s central leadership in 1957. This caused the premature death of the first attempt for  decentralisation in Kerala. The next government headed by Congress leader Pattom Thanupillai which came to power in 1959 put this process into the backburner. The second communist government which came to power in 1967 again took initiative to introduce the bill in assembly. But the bill could not be passed.


The renewed attempts to introduce the district council bill succeeded in 1990. The LDF government led by E K Nayanar established district councils in 14 districts of state. The district panchayat came into existence in February 1991. Through these councils, devolution of power from state planning board to district councils was made. The government allocated 24 per cent of state budget to the councils to set up schemes in the jurisdiction of district councils. In addition to this, 5 per cent of state budget was transferred to district councils on the condition that funded programmes could be implemented only with the involvement of local governments within the district. This was a revolutionary step in the field of decentralisation. The councils prepared their own schemes to revitalise the fields of education, health, and infrastructure, since 19 departments and 240 subjects were handed over to the councils.


Tragically the Congress led government which came to power in 1991 started strangulating the district council by withdrawing the powers given to the councils by the previous government. Gradually the councils became a carcass of what the predecessors dreamt. In April 1994, these councils were abolished and the power to decide on district projects was reallocated to state government departments within each district.  The reason behind this vengeance was that all districts except Malappuram were governed by the Left Democratic Front.


When the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were passed, Kerala enacted a law for the introduction of three tier panchayat system all over the state in 1995. This is the fourth election to the three tier panchayat system. The Left Democratic Front led by CPI(M) has a great winning record  in the previous election to the three tier panchayats.


In 2005 elections, all five corporations (Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode) and 13 district panchayats out of 14 were won by the LDF.  The Front continued its winning spree in village and block panchayats. Recently, the change of the members of DIC led by Karunakaran faction of the Congress and Indian Nation League to the UDF side caused the lose of Kasargode and Wayanad district panchayats. Though there was a tacit understanding with the BJP, the Congress led United Democratic Front could not gain much.


The following are the  results of 2005 panchayat elections:



Kasaragod                     Total          LDF UDF  BJP

Village panchayats           39      19      14      06

Block panchayats            04      03      01      00

Dist panchayat members  16      06      09      01

Municipalities                  02      00      02      00


Village panchayats           81      60      21      00

Block panchayats            11      09      02      00

Dist  panchayat members 26      21      05      00

Municipalities                  05      04      01      00


Village panchayats           25      18      07      00

Block panchayats            03      01      02      00

Dist panchayat members  16      06      10      00

Municipalities                  01      00      01      00


Village panchayats           78      69      09      00

Block panchayats            12      12      00      00

Dist panchayat members  28      23      05      00

Corporation Dvns            55      46      07      00

Municipalities                  02      02      00      00


Village panchayats           102    30      72      00

Block panchayats            14      03      11      00

Dist panchayat members  32      07      25      00

Municipalities                  05      02      03      00


Village panchayats           91      71      20      00

Block panchayats            13      11      02      00

Dist panchayat members  29      27      02      00

Municipalities                  04      02      02      00


Village panchayats           92      78      13      00

Block panchayats            17      15      02      00

Dist panchayat members  30      25      05      00

Corporation Dvns            52      29      22      00

Municipalities                  06      05      01      00


Village panchayats           88      67      21      00

Block panchayats            15      13      02      00

Dist panchayat members  28      20      08      00

Corporation Dvns            71      42      29      00

Municipalities                  04      02      02      00


Village panchayats           73      38      35      00

Block panchayats            11      06      05      00

Dist panchayat members  23      12      11      00

Municipalities                  04      02      02      00


Village panchayats           73      52      21      00

Block panchayats            12      11      01      00

Dist panchayat members  33      19      14      00

Municipalities                  05      03      02      00


Village panchayats           54      35      10      00

Block panchayats            09      06      03      00

Dist panchayat members  17      10      07      00

Municipalities                  03      01      02      00


Village panchayats           52      33      19      00

Block panchayats            08      06      02      00

Dist panchayat members  16      14      02      00

Municipalities                  01      00      01      00


Village panchayats           71      64      07      00

Block panchayats            13      13      00      00

Dist panchayat members  27      25      02      00

Corpration dvns              52      38      14      00

Municipalities                  02      02      00      00


Village panchayats           78      62      16      00

Block panchayats            12      10      02      00

Dist panchayat members  27      21      06      00

Corpration dvns              86      76      10      00

Municipalities                  04      04      00      00


This LDF is confident enough to repeat the victory in these elctions. The steps taken by the LDF government to strengthen the local self governments is a positive factor. Even opponents may also admit that there is no anti-  incumbency feeling. Being a consumer state, Kearala is a major casualty of the price rise due the recurring petrol price hike. But the steps taken by the Left government to check the price hike of essential commodities especially during the festival seasons made a strong impact on the people. The combined effort of the co-operative sector and civil supplies department succeeded in intervening in the public distribution and this made the festivals like Onam and Ramzan less costly. EMS Bhavana Paddhathi,  a flagship program of this government became a great success. All state public sector industrial units became profitable. The LDF hopes these programmes will have a major impact in this election.


Kerala has a brilliant record in efficient and transparent implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Social welfare measures were extended to the beneficiaries of MNREGA. Now all the beneficiaries enjoy the benefits of availing rice for Two rupees a kilo and they are also included in the special health insurance scheme. Thavinjal panchayat in Wayanad district has bagged the best panchayat award as it spent Five crore rupees for MNREGA projects. A well organiSed social auditing all over the state makes the implementation accountable and successful.


Projects like Kudumbashree also helped the state to find avenues for job opportunities and resource management. Kudumbashree is multifaceted women based poverty eradication program jointly initiated by government of Kerala and NABARD. This project also attracted national and international recognition. Kerala’s performances in the field of law and order, tourism and local self government also gained recognition from the central government.


In spite of all hindrances from the central government, the state is doing its best to fulfill the people’s mandate. The central government continues with a hostile approach towards the state by making attempts to deny projects like the Kochi Metro and railway component factory in Chertala. The antagonist attitude of the central government is also being highlighted in the election campaign.