LDF State committee to meet today to settle disputes over seat-sharing

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C. Gouridasan Nair

Kerala Congress(J), Janata Dal(Secular), RSP up in arms against CPI(M)

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State committee of the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) will meet here on Sunday to resolve the disputes over sharing of seats and seek removal of at least two controversial candidates from the fray.

The disputes involve the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on the one side and the Kerala Congress (J), Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) on the other. Although the common theme in all the disputes is the CPI(M) bid to wrest the seats that have for the last several elections been the preserve of the minor allies, each dispute has a dimension of its own and resolution of each could involve protracted bilateral discussions before the LDF panel meets formally to take up the issue.

When it met on March 25 to finalise seat-sharing, the LDF could arrive at a consensus only on 129 seats and had kept aside 11 seats with the resolve to hold further discussion on which party should take them. The seats kept aside are Irikkur, Thiruvambadi, Chalakudy, Palluruthy, Idukki, Kollam, Neyyattinkara, Mavelikara, Koduvally, Kallooppara and Kuttippuram. Of these, Irikkur and Kallooppara were with the KC(J), Thiruvambadi, Palluruthy and Mavelikara with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Chalakkudy, Idukki, Neyyattinkara and Koduvally with the JD(S) and Kollam and Kuttipuram with the RSP. It is certain that barring one or two, these seats would be taken over by the CPI(M). Some of the allies are resigned to this possibility, but would still put up a fight at the LDF panel meeting on Sunday.

KC(J)'s contention

The KC(J) has raised the banner of revolt against the CPI(M) decision to give it just one seat in Kottayam, a district where it has considerable sway. The party has two grouses here. One, that it has been equated with the Kerala Congress (Secular), floated by P. C. George, MLA, after he parted company with the KC(J) over a year ago. Two, it is sore that it has not been given the Kanjirappally and Pala seats where, it thinks, it could have given a strong fight to the UDF and, may be, even won one of the two.

The CPI(M) has given only six seats against eight in 2001 to the KC(J) and, even among these, the Thiruvananthapuram West seat has posed a problem for the LDF, with the KC(J) candidate Antony Raju getting embroiled in a court case over alleged tampering of evidence in a narcotic case years ago resulting in the acquittal of the accused. The CPI(M) district committee has sought his removal from the fray, but the KC(J) leadership has been insisting on keeping him in the fray. One option before the CPI(M) is to give Kallooppara to KC(J) and take back Thiruvananthapuram West. The former Congress leader Cherian Philip, who is tipped to contest from Kallooppara as an LDF-backed Independent, could be accommodated in Thiruvananthapuram West. But the Latin Catholic Church is reported to be backing Mr. Antony Raju's candidature, making a decision against him difficult for the LDF leadership.

The problem is equally, if not more serious, in Kottayam where the CPI(M) has fielded former IAS officer Alphonse Kannanthanam in Kanjirappally and refused to heed the KC(J) plea that it should be allowed an Independent candidate to defeat Revenue Minister K. M. Mani and have its candidate in Poonjar. KC(J) leader P.J. Joseph has gone to the extent of accusing certain `Christian leaders' in the CPI(M) of having worked behind the scene to facilitate a smooth ride for Mr. Mani and ensure that not too many Christian candidates get elected from other parties to prevent their entry into a possible LDF Cabinet. Some concession may have to be given to bring around Mr. Joseph.

Former IFDP men restive

Meanwhile, those who had joined the KC(J) dissolving the Indian Federal Democratic Party (IFDP) are restive and are planning to revive the party. The former IFDP Kottayam district president Georgekutty Augusthy has already declared his intention to enter the fray against Mr. Kannanthanam. It would be difficult now for the CPI(M) to withdraw Mr. Kannanthanam at this stage and that would see Mr. Georgekutty remaining in the fray if there is no decision on the Kanjirappally question at Sunday's LDF panel meeting.

It is not clear what the JD(S) leadership would do about its nominee in Kovalam, A. Neelalohithadasan Nadar, MLA, who is facing strident opposition from both the CPI(M) district committee and several women's organisations and rights activists. There is the possibility of Mr. Nadar quitting the fray on his own and his party nominating someone else to take his place.

As for the RSP, the possibility of the party getting back Kollam is quite remote and the CPI(M) has already decided to back firebrand former Muslim League leader K.T. Jaleel against former Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikkutty in Kuttippuram, the other RSP seat. How the RSP would be pacified remains to be seen.

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