Kottayam: Small parties that are part of the major political fronts in Kerala are hoping for a fair allocation of seats by bigger parties like the CPM and Congress for the state polls. Even as the leading parties have to put up with lobbying from their own candidate hopefuls, they have to manage outfits like the varied Kerala Congress factions, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS) and the like that seek to cut their pound of flesh.
While the two principal fronts, the LDF and the UDF, have almost reached an agreement over the seats, the tiny parties are not even in a position to retain the seats that they had contested in the previous election. As the small parties are running around for more seats, another party has taken birth recently --- Mani C Kappan's Nationalist Congress Kerala. It bagged the right to contest on the Pala seat on the United Democratic Front platform even before its birth!
A few more new political formations could be formed during the course of this election season in Kerala. Any disgruntled leader of a small party could chart one's own course if denied or offered a better deal by rival groupings.
Especially after the entry of Kerala Congress (M) into the Left Democratic Front (LDF) fold, minor parties are set to be sidelined during the seat allocation and this is particularly apt in the case of Kottayam district, the base of myriad slender outfits.
The Congress and Kerala Congress (M) were the only UDF allies to contest from assembly seats in Kottayam district in 2016.
But the LDF had allotted seats to three small parties in the district last time. Apart from the two leading ones, CPM and CPI, the NCP, Janadhipathya Kerala Congress and Kerala Congress (Scaria Thomas) too had candidates.
With the Kerala Congress (M) quitting the UDF, the front's lead party the Congress has at its disposal half a dozen vacant seats for sharing. Reportedly, the Congress is planning to take over most of these seats, but it is unlikely to hand over many to its allies like the Kerala Congress (Joseph).
The possibilities of seat allocation to small parties in Kottayam district by the UDF, LDF and NDA in the forthcoming polls are as follows:
In UDF, it is the Congress and Kerala Congress (M) which have been traditionally contesting elections in Kottayam district. The Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Kerala Congress (Jacob), CMP and Forward Bloc are not allotted constituencies to contest. This is unlikely to change this time as well.
Congress is likely to contest on six, Kerala Congress (Joseph) on two and Mani C Kappan's party on one seat as per the preliminary agreement for the district.
The Muslim League is eyeing a few seats in central Kerala. It has sought allocation from the UDF kitty for Idukki and Kottayam districts.
Poonjar is one of the seats that the Muslim League had demanded right at the first stage of discussion. The League staked its claim for Poonjar citing its strong presence in Erattupetta, Erumeli and Parathode areas.
The six additional seats that the party has sought in the state include Poonjar. As of now the UDF has decided to let Congress contest from Poonjar. Anticipating the possibility of the League demanding Poonjar, the Congress did not yield to its demand for Erumeli during the seat distribution for last year's election to the Kottayam District Panchayat.
Meanwhile, the Poonjar MLA PC George's bid to gain a foothold in the UDF is being stymied by local Congress and League leaders.
Janadhipathya Kerala Congress
With the entry of Kerala Congress (M) into the LDF, the Janadhipathya Kerala Congress has been badly hit. There is still no clarity as to how many seats the Janadhpithya Kerala Congress which contested on Changanassery and Poonjar seats unsuccessfully in 2016 would get in the district this time. It has informed the CPM that it is vacating the Idukki seat where the party had fielded its candidate last time.
The party has claimed that it has received clear assurance only on the Thiruvananthapuram seat.
It doesn't want to renounce the Changanassery seat. The party leaders reason that as C F Thomas who had won from here as a Kerala Congress (Mani) candidate later became part of the Joseph group, the former cannot stake its claim for the seat. However, the party is not sure whether their argument would be accepted by the LDF leadership. Along with Changanassery the party has staked claim for Kuttanad seat that was won by the NCP last time.
Incidentally, after both the Changanassery and Kuttanad MLAs passed away, the assembly seats are lying vacant.
Kerala Congress (Scaria Thomas)
Kerala Congress (Scaria Thomas) which contested on just one seat in Kottayam district in the last state election may not get any seat this time. The party has conveyed to LDF leader CPM that it was not interested in contesting from Kaduthuruthy again. The party has claimed that it has got an assurance on getting a seat either in Kottayam or Pathanamthitta districts.
Mani C Kappan was the NCP MLA of Pala till early February. After he joined the UDF, the official faction of the NCP has no seat in Kottayam district now and it is unlikely to get one back as the Kerala Congress (M) has staked claim for Pala.
The NCP had contested on four seats in the 2016 polls. The party leadership claimed that it would get the same number this time.
The state executive committee of the party meeting on February 28. The seat-sharing talks with CPM would take place after this meeting.
BDJS and Kerala Congress (Thomas)
In the last Assembly elections, the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena or the BDJS had contested on three seats and the Kerala Congress of P C Thomas on one seat as part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. BDJS unsuccessfully contested from Vaikom, Ettumanoor and Poonjar, while the Kerala Congress tried its luck in Kaduthuruthy. The NDA is reportedly mulling P C Thomas as its Pala candidate. Kaduthuruthy could be taken over by the BJP if Pala is handed over to P C Thomas.
The BDJS is likely to contest the same number of seats as it did in the 2016 polls. However, the BJP is keen to take over the Ettumanoor seat.
The return of P C George, the long-time Poonjar MLA, to NDA is also a possibility. George has stated that he would announce his decision after the UDF meeting on February 28.