Girish Menon

Antony's candidature for Rajya Sabha poll may not face resistance

Kerala Congress (M) has sought a formula

IUML leaders likely to meet Sonia on March 8

Thiruvananthapuram: United Democratic Front (UDF) partners Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Kerala Congress (M) have taken cautious positions in the ongoing bilateral discussions with the Congress in connection with their claim to the lone seat that the opposition front can hope to win in the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.

The elections are to be held to three seats consequent upon the expiry of the terms of A.Vijayaraghavan of the CPI(M), Abdul Wahab of the IUML and Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

Given the current party configuration in the State Assembly, the UDF can win one seat. The leaders of the two UDF partners are reconciled with the candidature of Mr. Antony. Their moves, therefore, are predictably meant to ensure that they do not lose their claims.

The only discordant note in the ongoing bilateral exercise is that the IUML jumped the gun announcing that it will hold discussions with the Congress High Command without waiting for the process of bilateral talks to be over.

The Congress leadership in the State is wary about criticising the IUML for taking this route, but there is a section in the party leadership which actually could not digest IUML State general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty's announcement in this regard the other day.

The Kerala Congress (M) on the other hand took a safer route by demanding a formula that would take care of the party's interests. “We fully appreciate the fact that Mr. Antony's services are indispensible at the national level. At the same time, we have been unrepresented in the Rajya Sabha since 1977. We have had to give up our claim for a Rajya Sabha seat for various reasons in the past. The Kerala Congress (M) has suggested that a formula that would take care of the party's interest be evolved,” Mr. Mani told The Hindu.

IUML strategy

According to sources, the IUML's attempt is to make good use of the current situation to get assurance from the Congress High Command for a Rajya Sabha seat for its all-India general secretary K.M. Khader Moideen from Tamil Nadu when a vacancy arises in that State. Another issue could be in relation to securing a good accommodation for Mr. Wahab.

“We also need to convince our rank and file that the party continues to enjoy its clout in the UDF,” IUML sources said. The proposed meeting between the IUML leaders and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi is likely to take place on March 8.

At the bilateral discussions, Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala briefed Mr. Mani and Mr. Kunhalikutty about the imperatives of re-nominating Mr. Antony. Obviously, both the leaders could not afford to allow a dispute over the seat. The UDF leaders, therefore, agreed not to openly air their views that could vitiate the favourable political situation for the UDF.