Congress to contest 15 seats

In an all-out attempt to consolidate anti-Marxist and anti-Left Democratic Front (LDF) votes in its favour, the United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership on Tuesday virtually wrapped up its seat-sharing process, according to which the Congress will contest 15 Lok Sabha seats.

At the end of its bilateral discussions, the Congress leadership decided to allot the Palakkad seat to the Socialist Janata (Democratic) [SJ(D)], and the Kollam seat to the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), a new entrant into the UDF fold.

The Kerala Congress (M) will contest the Kottayam seat, and the Indian Union Muslim League will contest from its traditional Malappuram and Ponnani seats.

The only lack of clarity was in relation to the Idukki seat, with the Congress and the KC(M), which had claimed it as its second seat, failing to come to an understanding on the issue.

The leaders of the two parties have claimed that the bilateral talks will continue, but there are clear indications that the KC (M) will have no option but to fall in line in view of the changed situation following the entry of the RSP.

Mr. Mani appeared to be resigned to contesting the Kottayam Lok Sabha constituency, where his son, Jose K. Mani, is seeking a second term.

The RSP was officially welcomed into the UDF fold at the ruling coalition’s high-power committee meeting soon after formally ratifying the decision. The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) had cleared the RSP’s entry into the UDF on Monday. Former Minister N.K. Premachandran will be the RSP’s candidate from Kollam.

The RSP leadership also gave in writing that the party will support the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi.

The RSP will merge with Labour Minister Shibu Baby John’s RSP (Baby John), a constituent of the UDF, after the elections are over but most probably before the results are announced.

The RSP will contest on its own election symbol as it has become a matter of prestige for them after quitting the LDF, but the party leaders said they did not expect any legal and constitutional tangles related to its ties with the party national leadership. The RSP leaders contented that their party was classified as a regional State party, and as such was entitled to the rights that enabled it to function according to its policies. The SJ(D) decided to field its president M.P. Veerendrakumar in the Palakkad seat that was allotted to it.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, KPCC president V.M. Sudheeran, UDF convener P.P. Thankachan, and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala left for New Delhi for discussions with the party’s central screening committee for the selection of the party candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.

The leaders hope to make a formal announcement by Thursday of the Congress candidates for Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Vadakara, Wayanad, Alathur, Thrissur, Chalakudy, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram, Mavelikara, Attingal, and Idukki.

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