Seat sharing blues ahead of Kerala polls

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 26 (IANS) With assembly elections round the corner, political parties in Kerala’s two key political fronts are seeking more seats for themselves.

While the uneasiness is more evident in the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), the Left Democratic Front (LDF) headed by the CPI-M is not immune to it.

CPI-M leaders Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Pinarayi Vijayan will be in Delhi to get general guidelines from the party leadership over how to go about forging a winning coalition.

The Congress has announced that a draft list of candidates would be ready by March 1.

With the outgoing assembly having held its final session on Wednesday, the election announcement is expected to come in a week’s time to pick 140 legislators to the assembly.

As things stand now, things appear to be calm in the LDF led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

But this cannot be said of the UDF.

Trouble appears to have surfaced in the Kerala Congress (Mani), the third biggest ally of the UDF.

The Kerala Congress (Mani) includes the erstwhile Kerala Congress (Joseph), which was an ally of the LDF before crossing over to the UDF.

In 2011, the Kerala Congress (Mani) contested 15 seats. Of these, four were given to the Joseph faction. The Mani faction won from six places and the Joseph faction in three.

“Yes, there are issues in our party. But don’t you think there are issues in each and every party during election time?” Kerala Congress (Mani) leader Francis George asked.

“Talks are on at various levels. There is a general feeling that our party should have taken a more pro-active role in the crisis in (Kerala’s) agriculture sector,” he added.

Leaders like George want more seats for the erstwhile Joseph faction but Mani is not ready to oblige.

Fishing in troubled waters, the CPI-M has sent feelers to the erstwhile Joseph faction that if it defects as a group, it would be treated well by the Marxists.

“If the UDF decides to fight unitedly, we certainly want more than 15 seats. We deserve it,” Mani has said.

However, the Congress appears to have won over one of its allies, the Janata Dal-United, by giving it a Rajya Sabha seat to contest. So the JD-U is not expected to make fresh demands over assembly seats.

The Revolutionary Socialist Party (Baby John) wants one additional seat to contest — in Kollam.

“We will be raising this in the UDF as we want to contest four seats in Kollam district and eight in all,” said party leader A.A. Azeez.

The Communist Party of India (CPI), the second biggest party in the LDF, is eyeing the lone Rajya Sabha seat the LDF will surely win next month.

“This is a ploy by them (CPI) to bargain for more assembly seats. In the last election they contested 27 seats. This time they want to contest in 30. So they have staked claim to the Rajya Sabha seat,” a CPI-M leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

The UDF is expected to finalise seat sharing in the coming days. And once the CPI-M leaders return from Delhi, the LDF will follow suit.

As for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is determined to open its account in Kerala.

All its senior leaders, including former central minister O. Rajagopal, are certain to be fielded.

And with RSS veteran Kummanem Rajasekheran becoming the new BJP state president, a few RSS leaders are also expected to be fielded. The BJP list of candidates is expected early next week.

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