The ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala on Wednesday established a comfortable lead in the three-tier local body polls of the state, as it won several key seats, data from the election commission showed. Votes were being counted for seats in 941 gram panchayats, 152 block panchayats, 14 district panchayats, 86 municipalities and six corporations.

As of 9 pm, the Left-led coalition was leading in 514 of 945 gram or village panchayats, while the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front was ahead in 375. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance also scored some political points in different parts of the state, and was ahead on 23 seats, although its performance was not as good as the party expected.

The United Democratic Front was leading in 45 of the 86 municipalities, while the LDF raced forward in 35 seats.

The LDF was also raced past others in 10 of the 14 district panchayats, and 108 of 152 block panchayats, according to State Election Commission. The UDF was ahead in four district panchayats.

The LDF registered a thumping victory in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, winning 51 wards out of a total of 100 wards, reported The Hindu. BJP won 34 wards, close to their tally in 2015, when they advanced from a six wards to winning 35 wards. The UDF was pushed to the third place again, with just nine wards. Five independents also won from the municipal corporation.

The Left Democratic Front also managed to retain its five-decade-old hold in Vadakara municipality by winning 27 out of the 47 divisions. The UDF could secure only 16 seats. The BJP managed to improve its presence by winning three.

A battle of close margins was observed in Thrissur Corporation, where the LDF won by one seat, with a tally of 24 against the UDF’s 23. The NDA, on the other hand, won six seats.

The UDF, particularly the Indian Union Muslim League, put up an incredible performance in Malappuram by winning 26 of the 32 District Panchayat divisions, nine of the 12 municipalities, 12 of the 15 block panchayats, and 74 of the 94 gram panchayats, according to The Hindu.

The local body elections were conducted in three phases on December 8, 10 and 14. The pattern of victories and losses in the polls are known to set the template for the Assembly elections of Kerala.

Eyes on Congress’ performance

As the results kept pouring in, the Indian Union Muslim League called upon the United Democratic Front, particularly the Congress, to introspect its performance.

“We have protected our strongholds in Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasargod districts,” IUML National Chairperson Sayed Hyderali Shihab Thangal was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “We have made huge gains in Malappuram....The UDF should review and introspect. The Congress should introspect.”

Congress mayoral candidate N Venugopal, meanwhile, alleged that voting machines were tampered, after he lost to a BJP candidate by one vote in the Kochi Corporation North Island ward, reported ANI.

“It was a sure seat,” he told reporters. “I can’t say what happened. There was no problem in the party. There was a problem with the voting machine. That may be the reason for BJP’s victory.”

Chief Minister P Vijayan thanks voters

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan touted the Left’s win as the victory of the people of the state, reported ANI.

“This election is a befitting reply to those who are trying to destroy Kerala,” he said at a press briefing, making an oblique reference to the BJP. “Efforts of those who tried to destabilise the government using central agencies have been defeated.”

Vijayan added that the results had showed how “opportunistic politics” had no space in Kerala. He also accused the Congress of colluding with the BJP. “The Congress was siding with the BJP to carry out a false campaign and malign LDF,” he alleged. “It has not succeeded.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, whose sons have been embroiled in a controversy over corruption charges, said that the election results had proved the Opposition wrong, reported The Indian Express.

Kerala Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac, meanwhile, said the LDF was heading towards a “resounding victory”. “People reject the slander campaign of Congress and BJP and also the machinations of central agencies,” Isaac tweeted. “It is a vote for left politics and development alternative of Kerala government.”