In 1953 the first local body elections were held under the provisions of the then Travancore - Cochin Panchayat Act, 1950.
After the formation of the Kerala State in 1956 an Administrative Reforms Committee (ARC) was constituted with the first Chief Minister as Chairman in 1957 and the said Committee recommended measures for decentralization of power at various levels and methods for democratization of the organs of government at various levels with a view of effective participation of local self-governing institutions in the administration. The system of governance of Panchayats, recommended by the ARC, was essentially a two-tier system with directly elected village panchayats at village level and district councils at the district level. The Panchayat Act of 1960 recommended the division of Local Bodies Department into Panchayat Department and Municipal Department for administrative convenience and ease.
The second election was held in 1963 after the formation of the state in 1956 and after the passing of Kerala Panchayat/ Municipality Acts of 1960. It was followed by elections in 1979 and 1988.
Government of India in 1957 appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Shri. Balwanth Rai Mehta to study the Community Development Programme. The Committee recommended a uniform three tier system of rural local government which laid the basis of Panchayati Raj in India.
In 1992 the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were passed by the Parliament and Part IX and IXA were added to the Constitution. The 74th Amendment is about rural local government which are also Known as Panchayati Raj Institutions or PRI and 74th Amendment made provisions relating to urban local governments (Nagarpalikas) and came into force in 1993. In line with the aforesaid Amendments Kerala State enacted The Kerala Panchayat Raj Act 1994 and The Kerala Muncipality Act 1994.Panchayat Raj Act 1994. The first election under the new enactment was held in 1995 and it was followed by elections in 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020.
Kerala has a total of 1199 local self-government institutions that are categorised into village panchayats, block panchayats, district panchayats, municipal councils and municipal corporations across 14 districts. The total number of local bodies in the state is 1199. Out of it 941 were Gram Panchayats, 152 were Block Panchayats, 14 District Panchayats, 86 Municipalities and 6 Municipal corporations. The detailed breakup of seats includes 15962 wards in 941 village panchayats, 2080 wards in 152 block panchayats, 331 seats in 14 district panchayats, 3078 wards in 86 municipal councils and 414 wards in 6 municipal corporations.
Article 243 E and 243 U of the Constitution of India deals with the duration/tenure of Panchayats and Municipalities and periodicity of elections to the rural and urban local bodies. It says “Every Panchayat/Municipality unless sooner dissolved under any law for the time being in force shall continue for five years from the date appointed its first meeting and no longer”. This constitutional provision also prohibits any dissolution of a Panchayat/ Municipality during its life. It also provided that an election to constitute a Panchayat/Municipality shall be completed before the expiry of its duration of five years and in case it is dissolved, the election shall be completed before the expiration of six months from such dissolution. If, however, a dissolved Panchayat/ municipality had tenure of less than six months left, there is no need for election for such a short period. Thus conduct of election to the rural and urban local bodies at a five-year interval is mandatory.
Elections to the civic bodies assumed greater significance because local level democracy is the basic foundation on which the entire democratic edifice rests. The legitimacy of these elections as crucial instruments of a democratic political process at the local level is increasing day by day. The State Election Commissions constituted under 243K and 243ZA of the Constitution of India is entrusted with the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for and the conduct of elections to the Panchayats and Municipalities in the state. The State Election Commission Kerala came into existence on 3rd December 1993.