Thiruvananthapuram: The Muslim League is reportedly intent on a tough bargain with the leadership of the United Democratic Front (UDF) as the formal talks with regard to the sharing of 140 electoral constituencies ahead of the assembly polls in Kerala are set to commence on Wednesday. The Congress, meanwhile, has a tough task at hand as it negotiates with demanding allies in the run-up to the polls.
The Muslim League is planning to ask for 10 more seats than the 24 it had contested in the 2016 assembly polls, UDF sources claimed.
Both the Muslim League and Kerala Congress (Joseph) like to corner many of the 15 extra seats that are available in the Congress-led front for sharing among allies after the Loktantrik Janata Dal had quit the front and joined the CPM-led rival alliance, the Left Democratic Front, in late 2018.
Even the Revolutionary Socialist Party or RSP is set to go for the kill and demand two seats more than the 5 that it was granted last time. It has reportedly identified one additional seat each in Alappuzha and Kollam for fielding its candidates.
The Kerala Congress (Joseph) is set to make a claim for all the 15 seats the united Kerala Congress (Mani) party was allotted last time before it parted ways with the UDF, ending its nearly decades-old association.
The PJ Joseph faction, which decided to stay put in the UDF, may demand the Muvattupuzha seat contested last time by the Congress if it has to give up on any constituency seat in Kottayam district, a strong hold of the rival Kerala Congress (Mani) led by Jose K Mani.
The Joseph's Kerala Congress may not mind giving up on the difficult Alathur seat in Palakkad and demand in place one with a better electoral prospect elsewhere.
Congress and Kerala Congress (Joseph) may even swap Thiruvalla and Ranni.
Slot for NCP splinter
The UDF leadership is likely to earmark a few seats for a likely splinter group of the Nationalist Congress Party which may join its fold amid serious intra-party differences.
The UDF allies have demanded the central Congress leadership to finish the seat-sharing parleys in January itself so that enough time is available for campaigning for the election likely in April.
Congress is unlikely to commit a political harakiri by acquiescing to any assertion by the League. Already the CPM has charged that the Congress has surrendered to the League over the latter's increasing sway in the UDF affairs. Moreover, it has to be wary of the BJP gaining further traction in the state by letting the ally to call the shots.
Rahul Gandhi to arrive
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, MP, is set to arrive in Kerala today. Election preparation is top of the agenda as the leaders of Congress and Muslim League are set to call on him at the Kozhikode airport.
Rahul is set to take part in UDF conventions at Vandoor and Nilambur. Though the same event was planned for at Eranad and Thiruvambady, they stand cancelled.
He will attend various events in his Lok Sabha constituency Wayanad on Thursday.