LDF, UDF in last lap of seat divisions; easy pickings for Kerala Congress (Mani)

Changanasseri to Perambra, seat-division stalemate persists as allies stand by claims
IUML's PK Kunhalikutty, Kerala Congress (Joseph)'s PJ Joseph, Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala

Thiruvananthapuram: Influential regional party the Kerala Congress (Mani) would have little grouse with the leadership of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) as it has been reportedly allotted a decent share of constituencies to contest in the April 6 state polls. The party, which had joined the CPM-led combine only a few months ago, may contest on a dozen seats though an official confirmation is awaited. Significantly, the assembly seat allocations for it have been in different parts of the state rather than in its bastions in central Kerala.

Kerala Congress (M), now led by Jose K Mani, had won six out of the 16 constituencies allotted to it in the 2016 polls when it was part of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

Jose K Mani
Jose K Mani

Considering last year's split in the party, owing to frictions with the PJ Joseph-led faction, Jose has achieved a satisfactory deal now. Significantly, it has managed to wrest Chalakudy, Perumbavoor and Piravom seats apart from nine others mostly in its strongholds.

Jose is reportedly pursuing the Changanacherry seat too on which major parties have been making serious bid from their respective political combines. But CPM may not allot Changanacherry as it has been apparently liberal by granting Chalakudy and Perumbavoor, which are outside the Kerala Congress fiefdoms.  

The new LDF member has been assured of Pala, Kanjirappally, Poonjar, Kaduthuruthi, Idukki, Thodupuzha, Ranni, Irikkoor and Kuttiadi too, though a formal announcement is awaited. 

Kerala CM and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan

CPI upset 

The LDF, which so far had a tough time with seat divisions, now has to calm its second most important party, CPI. 

The CPI leadership is reportedly upset as the CPM has gave in to the demands of the Kerala Congress (Mani) leadership. 

The CPM and the CPI could not agree on their demands for the Changanassery seat. During talks with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and former CPM chief Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran stood firm in his party’s demand for Changanassery, especially because it gave up its claim on the Kanjirappally seat to accommodate new ally Kerala Congress (M).

It is still not known which party would be allotted the Changanacherry seat.  

The LDF leaders are expecting to iron out the differences before a meeting of the alliance partners Sunday evening. In case the differences persist, the meeting may be postponed. The CPI has also said that it was ready to exchange any other seat in the Kottayam district for Changanassery, except Kottayam and Puthuppally where the front faces an uphill battle. It has also volunteered to give up its claims on Irikkur, Thirurangadi and Eranad seats in the northern parts of the state. 

Joseph faction's share

Meanwhile, the Joseph faction is likely to settle for 9 seats in the opposition UDF though it has asked for one more. Congress has nearly stitched a seat-sharing deal with this Kerala Congress outfit by deciding to grant it the contentious Changanacherry and Ettumanoor seats, sources in both the parties hinted. 

If this agreement is finalised the Congress and Joseph faction will contest on 5 and 3 seats respectively in Kottayam district. Congress has agreed to contest from Puthuppally, Vaikom, Kottayam, Kanjirappally and Poonjar, thus leaving Kaduthuruthi, Changanassery and Ettumanoor to the Kerala Congress (Joseph).

Interestingly, candidates of both the Kerala Congress parties would be the main challengers in Kaduthuruthi on behalf of the UDF and the LDF. 

Congress was reluctant to part with both Changanacherry and Ettumanoor seats but relented. An official confirmation, though, is awaited regarding the apportioning of electoral seats by both fronts. 

The Congress has already rejected the Kerala Congress (Joseph) demand for Perambra in the Kozhikode district. The Muslim League has also staked a claim for the seat.

Leaders who have crossed over from the Kerala Congress (M) has asked P J Joseph to give them their fair share since their presence was key to securing nine seats.

PJ Joseph
PJ Joseph

Likely candidates from Joseph's camp

The Kerala Congress (Joseph) has already moved on to discussions about its candidates for the nine seats it was sure to be allotted. 

PJ Joseph, now unwell, is likely to contest again from Thodupuzha and Mons Joseph from his sitting seat Kaduthuruthi. Francis George is likely to stick to Idukki and Thomas Unniyadan in Irinjalakkuda. Shibu Thekkumpuram is likely to be considered as a candidate for Kothamangalam and Jacob Abraham for Kuttanad. Prince Lukose may be considered for Ettumanoor while Joseph M Puthussery and Varghese Mammen vie for Tiruvalla. 

Changanassery may go for either V J Lali or Sajan Francis.

Muslim League may demand 10 more seats, UDF seat allocation talks start
Senior Congress leaders Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy meeting IUML leaders Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal and PK Kunhalikutty.

UDF allotments almost over

The UDF has almost finished its seat-division negotiations. 

The Muslim League has cemented its claim for Koothuparamb, but Congress has rejected its demand for Pattambi.

A decision on an alternative for Pattambi would clinch the deal between the Congress and the Muslim League.

As the Congress leaders will leave for Delhi on Sunday to finalise their own list of candidates, the UDF leaders would now carry on with the seat-division talks on the telephone. 

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