Congress' seat-sharing talks with SJ(D), KC(M) begin today

The Congress high command appears to be firm on contesting all the 17 sitting seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, virtually putting pressure on the State leadership which will resume its seat-sharing talks with the Socialist Janata (Democratic) and the Kerala Congress (M) from Saturday.

The high command, party sources said, was not willing to concede additional seats to the two United Democratic Front partners since it wanted to contest and win the maximum seats in the Lok Sabha to help manage the numbers game likely to take place in the post-election period.

The high command perceives that the UDF can repeat its 2009 performance mainly because of the problems in the Left Democratic Front, particularly residues of schism in the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy indicated his line of thinking at the KPCC executive committee meeting, expressing his inclination to accommodate the SJ(D) in view of the commitment given by the Congress leadership when that party quit the LDF shortly before the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Prospects

The Congress is not in a position to give up its sitting seats of Kozhikode, Wayanad or Vadakara to the SJ(D). It cannot give up Kozhikode, represented by M.K. Raghavan, who has by now established his credentials as Member of Parliament, making deep inroads in what was considered till now a pre-dominantly CPI(M) constituency.

The Congress does not want to give up Wayanad, which is perhaps one of its sure seats. Last time, it fielded M.I. Shanavas mainly because it wanted to ensure the victory of a Muslim candidate from Malabar, where the Indian Union Muslim League has a pervasive presence.

The situation has hardly changed but there is considerable speculation that the party might go for a fresh face from here with a view to attract youngsters from the community. The party leadership will have to deny a ticket to Union Minister Mullapally Ramachandran if it were to concede the seat to the SJ(D).

In this context, the Congress might moot the idea of allotting a Rajya Sabha seat to the SJ(D) when three vacancies are expected to come up in April 2015.

If the SJ(D) leadership bites the bait, then the party will be in a better frame of mind to take on the Kerala Congress (M) and use the factional fights within that party to its advantage, when talks resume on March 4. Sources said the party leaders are optimistic about wrapping up the seat-sharing talks by March 4.