Lok Sabha polls | Congress’s delay in announcing candidates in Kerala hands an early-bird advantage to rivals

KPCC president K. Sudhakaran and Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan are due in New Delhi to procure All India Congress Committee’s clearance to announce party’s candidates in 16 parliamentary seats in the State

Updated - March 06, 2024 11:07 am IST

Published - March 05, 2024 08:59 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K. Sudhakaran (right) and Opposition Leader V.D Satheesan. (file)

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K. Sudhakaran (right) and Opposition Leader V.D Satheesan. (file) | Photo Credit: H. VIBHU

Congress’s apparent hesitation in announcing its candidates for the Lok Sabha election has rendered the party vulnerable to criticism that the process appeared inordinately delayed and in politically costly limbo.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran and Leader of Opposition V. D. Satheesan are due in New Delhi to procure the All India Congress Committee’s (AICC) clearance to announce the party’s candidates in 16 parliamentary seats.

The KPCC has reportedly short-circuited the candidate selection process by signalling a predisposition to field incumbents.

However, the ambivalence about whether Rahul Gandhi would contest again from the Wayanad constituency has reportedly bogged down the final announcement.

A similar uncertainty plagued the Kannur and Alappuzha Lok Sabha constituencies. Congress has not divulged whether Mr. Sudhakaran, the incumbent MP, would rerun the electoral gauntlet from Kannur.

A corresponding chanciness pervaded the Congress’s choice for the Alappuzha LS seat. AICC general secretary K. C. Venugopal had signalled an interest in contesting from Alappuzha if the national leadership mandated so.

Of late, the trickle of Congress leaders dissenting from the KPCC’s nomination of the party’s mandalam presidents has arguably increased, raising questions about the battle-worthiness of the party’s grassroots election machinery.

Congress has also reportedly come under criticism from United Democratic Front (UDF) allies, including the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), for inadvertently allowing the CPI(M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to seize the initiative on the campaign trail.

The LS campaign of CPI(M) and BJP had gathered momentum, with their respective candidates touring their constituencies, holding neighbourhood-level meetings and knocking on voters’ doors cyclically. The CPI(M) and BJP have also gained a lead over the Congress in registering new voters.

Given that young voters get to know candidates more on social media platforms, both CPI(M) and BJP have seized an early-bird advantage over Congress by enlisting and creating influencers to sway the young demographic in their favour. CPI(M) and BJP have also used billboards, colourful campaign anthems and graffiti to build brand loyalty for their contestants.

Mr. Satheeshan had told reporters earlier that Congress selected candidates at its own pace and did not feel pressured by another party or extraneous factors. He added that the KPCC’s parliamentary board had sent its decisions to the AICC’s Chief Election Committee, and a decision was imminent.

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