The Congress high command has pressed the fast-forward button by initiating talks with Kerala leaders for finalising the list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections by February 1, when the model code of conduct is expected to come into force.

AICC general secretaries Janardhana Dwivedi and Madhusoodan Mistry held preliminary discussions with Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala on the issue. The second round of discussions will be held on December 24 when Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is expected to visit Delhi. Mr. Chennithala will also join the discussions at that time.

The AICC has reportedly finalised the list of candidates of several States and discussions with Kerala leaders have been initiated in tune with these moves. The basic premise is to give candidates contesting the elections a head start in electioneering. At Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Chennithala is understood to have informed the AICC leaders that the Kerala leadership’s views on candidate selection can be submitted only after discussions with the 30-member election committee of the KPCC. If the speed with which the AICC seems to be moving, it appears that the Congress leadership will have to open dialogues with UDF partners for formalising a well-accepted seat-sharing formula.

This time around, the Congress leadership would have to consider the Socialist Janata (Democratic) party’s claim for a Lok Sabha seat. In fact, this aspect gives an opportunity for the Congress leadership to reopen the candidate selection process by bringing in certain criteria for ticket distribution. It is also possible that sitting Members of Parliament will be put on the chopping block depending on their performance ratings. Mr. Chennithala has already made it clear that the winning chance of the candidate will be the main criterion, though the leadership will have to adopt traditional tactics to ensure communal balance.

The high command’s push towards early candidate selection comes at a time when it has not been able to finalise the nominees of the KPCC executive committee and the composition of the District Congress Committees.