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Congress in Kerala faces tough issues before LS polls

Congress in Kerala faces tough issues before LS polls

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress in Kerala is facing a host of issues as general elections draw near and a leader said an assessment has been done on the "performance of the sitting Lok Sabha members" from the state.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala held the first round of their talks in Delhi and their first task is to sort out which all allies to be given seats. The state has just 20 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Over the last many parliamentary elections, the common feature has been the Congress contests 17 seats, the Indian Union Muslim League contests two, which it has won last time, and the Kerala Congress (Mani) contests one, which too won.

But this time it remains to be seen if the same seat sharing formula would continue as the Janata Dal (S), then led by media baron M.P. Veerendra Kumar, which was part of the Left opposition in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, has split. Its Socialist Janata Dal faction has jumped in to join the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

The group quit the opposition Left Democratic Front after its demand to retain the Kozhikode seat held by Kumar was turned down by the Left parties in 2009.

Similarly, the IUML and KC (M) also are hoping to bargain for an additional seat as demands within these parties have intensified for an extra seat.

"Each of the allies has its own rationale to demand for more...Very soon we will finalise the intra-party seat-sharing by initiating talks with each ally," said Chandy.

Chennithala added: "We wish to contest more seats and all parties have such thoughts too. Nothing has been finalised as yet and we are confident that we will be able to sort out things amicably at the earliest and hit the campaign trail."

Another problem that Chandy and his colleagues face is about deciding the list of candidates.

This time the Congress is facing a Herculean task as in the 2009 polls 13 of its candidates won the polls, and of them five are ministers. These are: Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram), K.V.Thomas (Ernakulam), Kodikunnil Suresh (Mavelikera), K.C.Venugopal (Alappuzha) and Mulapally Ramachandran (Vadakkara).

"We are told that there has been an assessment done on the performance of the sitting Lok Sabha members of our party by our national leadership. If that be the case, then either one or two of the sitting members would become ineligible," said a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be identified.

"And then we are left with six seats where new candidates would have to be identified. From this, the issue of giving either one or perhaps two seats to women is also likely to come up," he added.

The leader said the selection of candidates will be a tough task as the list of hopefuls is pretty lengthy.

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