The Hindu

Congress moves to tighten grip on local bodies in Kerala

- SPECIAL CORRESPOND­ENT

THIRUVANAN­THAPURAM: Taken aback by the growth of the Bharatiya Janata Party in electoral politics and the upper hand that the Opposition Left Democratic Front got, the Congress leadership has issued a set of guidelines intended to consolidat­e its position in local bodies it captured in the recent elections to the rural and urban local self-government­s in the State.

It has clamped a ban on the party entering into any kind of alliance to wrest control of local bodies where it does not have a majority. The elected representa­tives have been directed to elect their respective presiding officers through consensus as far as possible in the election to be held uniformly across the State on November 18.

In its previous terms in office in the local bodies, the Congress followed a practice of sharing the terms of office of president and vice-president of the local bodies among different faction leaders. Most often, the party had to tackle mid-term no-confidence motions in these bodies because the incumbent refused to vacate office. The party and the United Democratic Front it leads lost control of nearly 30 per cent of 700 local bodies it had won in 2010 at the end of a hard electoral battle on account of this shift in local equations. There were instances of UDF partners battling out in a threeway fight, leading to no-confidence motions and disqualifi­cation of members under the anti-defection laws.

In those local bodies where the party does not have a majority, the party leadership has however not taken a decision on what stand it should take in relation to assuming certain constituti­onally mandated positions in the local bodies such as that of chairperso­ns of various standing committees that are entrusted with various aspects of local developmen­t activities. It is wary about having to share office with the BJP, which has sent higher number of representa­tives, mostly in urban local bodies.

But Kannur is different for the UDF since it was in the forefront to convert this sleepy municipali­ty into a city corporatio­n. The Congress had taken a soft stand against the Congress rebel candidate, P. K. Ragesh, who now holds the key to decide whether the LDF or the UDF should rule. The two major coalitions have 27 seats each in the 55member city corporatio­n. A formula is being worked out by a high-level delegation.

Stung by rise of BJP, leadership tweaks its strategy

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