High command relaxes its own norm on constituency shift

Constituency watch: Kerala

The Congress high command appears to have bent backwards by amending its own norm that sitting MPs need not be given a constituency shift. This has paved the way for P.C. Chacko to contest from the Chalakudy Lok Sabha seat by replacing K.P. Dhanapalan, who will now contest from Thrissur. The party leadership has explained this as a move to shore up its chances in both the constituencies.

Except for the hiccup with regard to the Thrissur seat, the State leadership of the Congress completed the candidate selection process rather smoothly, enabling the central leadership to announce the list of its candidates from the 15 constituencies it has got to contest in the April 10 Lok Sabha elections.

The party leadership’s decision to renominate its sitting members of Parliament for a second term took away much of the tension usually associated with the selection process. However, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy succeeded in inducting two of his trusted lieutenants in the list. Former Youth Congress State president T. Siddique, who has frontline support of Mr. Chandy, will contest from Kasaragod, while Youth Congress State president Dean Kuriakose, another youngster politically nurtured by Mr. Chandy, will contest from Idukki, pushing out another unpopular sitting MP P.T. Thomas.

The nomination from the Chalakudy constituency came as a reward for Mr. Chacko, who was the chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee that probed the 2G spectrum allegations.

As far as the Chalakudy seat is concerned, the UDF virtually dominates five Assembly segments of Aluva, Kunnathunad, Perumbavoor, Angamaly, and Chalakudy. Kodungalloor and Kaipamangalam are controlled by Left parties. The official explanation for the constituency shift is that it would be possible to get the Christian votes consolidated in favour of Mr. Chacko in Chalakudy.

The party leadership swears that there is a rationale in shifting Mr. Dhanapalan to Thrissur. The CPI, which has been contesting the seat for over two decades, has been successful in consolidating the votes of the Ezhava community. Fielding Mr. Dhanapalan, who belongs to that community, will enable the Congress to make a dent on the Left positions, party sources say.