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Congress, CPI-M grapple with leadership issues

Congress, CPI-M grapple with leadership issues

Thiruvananthapuram: Who will lead the Congress and the CPI-M in the coming assembly elections in Kerala? Both parties appear to be unsure.

Over the years, power has changed hands in the state between the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The Left has two front-runners, both from the CPI-M.

One is the 92-year-old former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan, the other is long-time rival, Pinarayi Vijayan, 71. The former is considered widely popular and the latter is seen a party strongman.

Vijayan has just ended a successful month-long tour of the state during which he covered all 140 assembly constituencies.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, whose closeness to Achuthanandan is well known, and party leader S. Ramachandran Pillai will take part in party leadership meetings here on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The CPI-M has to decide whether both Achuthanandan and Vijayan need to contest the elections and, if yes, who will lead the battle, party sources said.

Within the Congress, despite a full-term run by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala are expected to give Chandy a fair challenge.

Chandy, whose UDF has 72 seats in the 140-member Kerala assembly, surprised many when he became the first Congress chief minister after K. Karunakaran (1982-87) to complete the full five-year tenure.

While it has not been decided yet if Sudheeran should contest the election, Chennithala, who withdrew at the last minute in 2011, is certain to throw his hat into the ring this time.

If that happens, there may be more than one claimant for the post of chief minister - if the UDF comes on top again. Similarly, if both Vijayan and Achuthanandan contest, the CPI-M will also face a dilemma.

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