Cong. scrutiny panel clears four candidates

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Party working out new electoral equations for other seats

The Congress screening committee on Monday cleared the first batch of four candidates for the April 23 Lok Sabha elections in Kerala.

Accordingly, Shashi Tharoor, M.K. Raghavan and Kodikkunnil Suresh will seek re-election from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Mavelikara respectively, while K. Sudhakaran, a former MP of Kannur, will contest from the seat again.

The screening committee meeting had the task of finalising the list of candidates for the 16 seats that the party would contest in the State. The meeting could not make much headway mainly because of the internal issues in the Kerala Congress (M) related to the lone seat that the party would be contesting.

Besides, the party leaders wanted time to work out new electoral equations for the other seats to ensure a winning combination against the LDF, which has already announced its candidates in the 20 seats.

The Congress leadership is examining new permutations, particularly in those seats which it firmly believes can be won if the right equation is struck. As of now, the list of Congress candidates will be ready only by March 16 after the screening committee meet the previous day. Moreover, the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee will be busy with the visit of Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday. Mr. Gandhi will formally launch the UDF’s election campaign.

UDF arrangement

As per the seat-sharing arrangement in the UDF, the Indian Union Muslim League will contest in Malappuram and Ponnani.

The IUML has already announced that its all-India general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty and E.T. Mohammed Basheer will contest from the seats respectively.

Similarly, the Revolutionary Socialist Party has selected N.K. Premachandran for a second term from Kollam seat.

The Kerala Congress (M), however, has got entangled in an internal row centred around the differences between Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K. Mani, son of party strongman K.M. Mani, and party working chairman P.J. Joseph.

The party has come down from its earlier demand for two seats and has reconciled itself to the prospect of contesting from one seat.

According to UDF sources, several rounds of informal talks were held between senior Congress and Kerala Congress (M) leaders to find a solution. Though the Congress high command had said that it would give ticket to sitting parliament members, there could be some rearrangements depending on how the UDF succeeds in settling the Kerala Congress (M) tussle, they said.

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