The Congress leadership is working on a strategy to capture prestigious urban local bodies in the State, including the city corporations that have been out of its political grasp in the previous elections.

Under the ‘Chandy-Chennithala scheme,' aspirants for an Assembly seat who do not stand a chance for the party ticket because of various reasons, including communal configurations usually applied in such processes, will be asked to throw their hats into the ring. There are several second-rung leaders who have been in the running for an Assembly seat for quite a long time, but have not been able to make it either because communal or factional equations are heavily loaded against them. The party leaders now want to utilise their political profiles to capture the urban local bodies.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has not been able to capture the city corporations of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode in the previous elections. In Thiruvananthapuram, for example, the winning margins have been thin, and owing to several reasons, the party has been forced to sit in the opposition. On several occasions, UDF candidates have lost with wafer-thin margins. The current thinking of the party leadership is to capture these corporation wards by fielding leaders who, because of their political profile, can make a big difference in the outcome.

If the party leadership succeeds in pulling off this strategy, many second-run leaders would get an opportunity to contest the polls to district panchayats as well. The general political assessment of the party is that the UDF can make big headways if it changes the rules of ticket allocation. With the party and the coalition now saddled with the responsibility of finding women candidates for 50 per cent of the seats, fielding second-rung leaders would also ensure induction of some quality in the leadership of these local bodies irrespective of whether the party finally notches up a good tally.

The party think tank also wants to make the best out of the perceived unpopularity of the Left Democratic Front government.

Of late, the Congress leadership has been taking an active interest in the functioning of local bodies. Recently, the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies, a research outfit under the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, held a one-day agenda-setting workshop, disclosing the KPCC's interest in the local bodies, which are recipients of huge funds under various prestigious schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, promoted by the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. With several other landmark legislations on the cards, the party leaders have now seriously started strategising for a post-election situation, sources said.