KERALA

LDF extends deadline for seat-sharing



Special Correspondent

The Front will meet again on March 25 for talks in this respect

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala committee of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has extended the deadline for finalisation of seat-sharing among alliance partners following persistent differences over the CPI(M) bid to take away seats from the junior allies.

While the differences between the CPI(M) and the CPI appeared to have narrowed down, the RSP and other coalition partners were putting up a stiff resistance to the CPI(M) to divest them collectively of around a dozen seats. There was no breakthrough in the bilateral discussions between the CPI(M) and the allies on Saturday. The talks would continue in the days to come so as to arrive at an amicable settlement to the vexed seat-sharing exercise.

The CPI(M) has sought Aryanad and Kollam seats from the RSP and has already finalised its candidate for the Neyyattinkara seat, contested in the last Assembly election by the Janata Dal (Secular), and Thiruvananthapuram East, where the Congress(S) was in the fray. It is planning sharp cuts into the share of all the junior allies, save the Kerala Congress (Joseph), and this has caused considerable heartburn among the allies.

Briefing reporters after the LDF panel meeting, chaired by Leader of the Opposition V. S. Achuthanandan, Front convener Paloli Mohammed Kutty said it was natural for coalition partners to differ over the number of seats to be contested by each and asserted that the Front had not arrived at specific figures in respect of each partner. He said the demands of the Kerala Congress (Secular) would also figure in the seat-sharing talks.

Mr. Kutty said the Front State committee had also decided to take up the election manifesto of the alliance at the March 25 meeting. Copies of the draft manifesto had been handed over to the LDF constituents for their consideration, but some of them could not complete the exercise.

He said the manifesto would not be finalised at the coming meeting. However, the LDF committee had finalised the calendar of campaign-related work. The LDF district committees would meet before March 23. Election conventions at the constituency level would be held in two stages. In constituencies where the elections were being held in the first stage on April 22, the conventions would be held on March 28 and those in constituencies on March 31. Booth-level committees would be constituted by April 4. The campaign for the first stage would take place from April 5 to 19 and for the second stage from April 12 to 26.

Achuthanandan to lead campaign

Asked why Mr. Achuthanandan was not being allowed to contest, he said that in the CPI(M), it was normal for people in the parliamentary field to be asked to work in the organisation and vice-versa. Asked whether Mr. Achuthanandan would lead the LDF's poll campaign as announced by party general secretary Prakash Karat, he retorted, "Why doubt it? Isn't VS the leader of any campaign of the party and the LDF in Kerala?"

The LDF convener came down heavily on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for his remark that the Opposition had got a beating by its own stick. The Opposition had neither given the Government any stick to beat it with nor got beaten. All that it had done was to question the delay on the part of the Government in implementing wage revision in February as promised by the Chief Minister on the floor of the Assembly. The Government had deliberately delayed a decision on the matter with an eye on the election, Mr. Kutty said.