The Congress has started its search for presiding officers in three-tier panchayats, city corporations and municipalities in accordance with the quota it is eligible under the United Democratic Front's formula for sharing the various posts in these bodies.

The selection of Mayor for the prestigious Kochi Corporation is the most keenly watched because this is for the first time that the UDF has captured the local body after an era of Left dominance. Besides, Kochi also happens to be a growing city, the industrial and commercial hub of the State. The second most favoured position is the president of district panchayats, followed by the posts of chairperson of municipalities.

The Kottayam district panchayat is witnessing some hard-nosed bargaining between the Kerala Congress(M) and the Congress, since the two parties have 10 and 9 seats respectively. According to the UDF formula for sharing of posts of presiding officers, the term of president will be shared equally between the two, with the Kerala Congress(M) getting the first turn in view of the larger number of seats it has got. In the meantime, Congress leaders in the district have strongly protested against the move of the Kerala Congress(M) to admit to its fold two Congress rebels who won in the Kottayam municipality, alleging that the party had violated the UDF guidelines, according to which rebels are not be included in the tally of any party.

However, Kerala Congress(M) leaders asserted that the two rebels, Anusha Krishnan and Elizabeth Joemon, had decided to join the party on their own. They expressed their desire to be associated with the Kerala Congress(M). “If we don't accommodate them, they would shift their loyalty to the CPI(M),” a senior leader said. The UDF Kottayam district committee is meeting on November 5, at which a final decision will be taken, sources said.

In Kochi, the Congress will have the final word in selecting the Mayor candidate, but it is fast becoming a factional game, in which frontline candidate N. Venugopal might find himself in the backbench. His main contenders are T.J. Vinod, Lino Jacob and Tony Chimmini. The council party meeting on November 4 will select the Mayor candidate, sources said. One proposal before the party leaders is to nominate a fresh face for Mayor, but the final decision would be based on factional preferences.

Discussions are on for selection of Mayor in the Thrissur Corporation and this will be finalised at the council party meeting on November 5, sources said. The powers to select the presiding officers of block and grama panchayats have been devolved to the various committees at the respective level and this will be done according to the UDF guidelines, party sources said.

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