Having crossed IUML hurdle, pressure on Congress to announce LS candidates at the earliest

Published - February 29, 2024 08:07 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

KPCC president K. Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan.  File photo

KPCC president K. Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan. File photo | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Indian Union Muslim League’s (IUML) decision to drop its strident demand for a third Lok Sabha seat has put the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) on a campaign footing.

By agreeing to accept a Rajya Sabha berth in return, the IUML has inadvertently put pressure on the Congress leadership to finalise its candidate list fast.

The Congress is contesting in 16 Lok Sabha seats. It has accorded Malappuram and Ponnani to the IUML, Kottayam to Kerala Congress (Joseph) and Kollam to the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).

By some accounts, the Congress appeared inclined to short-circuit the candidate selection process by fielding incumbent MPs.

With the LS polls at its doorstep, Congress seemed unwilling to risk a shambolic, contentious and protracted candidate selection process.

However, the oddity that none of the Congress’s incumbent MPs hail from the Muslim community reportedly weighs on the party leadership.

In stark contrast, the Communist Party India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] has four members from the minority community, a crucial electoral bloc, contesting on the party ticket.

The Congress’s screening committee is reportedly meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. It is unclear whether the meeting would deliberate on minority representation or recalibrate the party’s candidate selection matrix to strike a more politically optimal caste and communal equilibrium.

A Congress insider said the All India Congress Committee (AICC) would announce the final list soon.

The meeting will likely take a call on fielding KPCC president K. Sudhakaran again from Kannur.

It might also weigh deploying the AICC general secretary (organisation), K.C. Venugopal, in Alappuzha.

Mr Sudhakaran had voiced reservations about contesting the seat and spearheading the KPCC’s poll campaign simultaneously. Leader of the Opposition V. D. Satheesan, said the party would factor in Mr. Sudhakaran’s opinion before taking a final call.

Recently, Mr. Venugopal said he would contest from Alappuzha if desired by the party. Senior Congress leader Kodikunnil Suresh had dithered about contesting from Mavelikara and expressed a keen interest in plunging into State politics.

IUML and other alliance partners have reportedly counselled the Congress not to delay candidate announcements so the UDF could hit the campaign trail running.

IUML State General Secretary P.M.A. Salam had griped about the Left Democratic Front (LDF) stealing a march on the UDF by pushing its candidates into the campaign trail early.

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