Special Correspondent

Leadership seeks details of short-listed candidates

Panel scales down list of candidates

NEW DELHI: The central screening committee of the Congress for Kerala has deferred a decision on candidates till next week in view of the developments within the Left Democratic Front (LDF). The screening committee met here on Friday for the second time under the chairmanship of senior party leader Janardhan Dwivedi.

Officially, the reason touted by the Congress leadership of Kerala is that the central leadership wanted more details on the candidates short-listed by the sub-committee of the Pradesh Election Committee. However, the screening committee is understood to have scaled down the list of 69 candidates for the 17 seats that the Congress gets to contest as part of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.

Briefing presspersons after the meeting, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala said the State leadership had been asked to provide more details on the short-listed candidates. Now that the UDF is due to meet on March 16, it was decided that it would be best to schedule a meeting of the screening committee after that.

The central leadership is understood to have made its own assessment of the party’s chances at the hustings in Kerala. Since the UDF could manage only one seat in the 2004 elections, the assessment is that the Congress-led coalition can only gain in the State this time round. Such being the case, the Congress would like to make best use of the opportunity; more so with the troubles brewing within the LDF over seat adjustments between constituents.

About the troubles within the LDF, Mr. Chennithala said the Congress, the UDF and the people of Kerala were watching the developments keenly as it was no longer the internal matter of the ruling coalition but an issue that could well impact the State.

Though he maintained that there had been no contact between the Congress and the Communist Party of India (CPI), which has threatened to field candidates against the CPI(M) if it does not concede ground on Ponani, the PCC president did hark back to the Ministry of C. Achutha Menon (CPI) in 1970 which was supported by the Congress. “It was a model government,” he said.