New Delhi: The Congress has announced that none of their MPs will not be contesting in the upcoming Kerala Assembly polls. The party, which is set to announce the list of candidates on Sunday, will contest in 91 seats, leaving the rest 49 to its UDF allies.
Speaking to reporters here on Friday, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Mullappally Ramachandran said that the party has finalized the candidates for 81 seats.
Candidates for 10 constituencies, including Nemom, where a high-voltage contest is expected, Puthuppally and Dharmadom will be decided later, he said.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Congress general secretary in change of Kerala Tariq Anwar were also present at the press meet.
The decision to exclude members of Parliament from the list effectively thwarted the rumours of Shashi Tharoor, member of parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, being a potential candidate for the Nemom constituency.
Asked if the party had finalised the candidate for Nemom, the lone seat won by the BJP in the 2016 assembly polls, Chennithala said it would not be a weak candidate.
Speculation is rife that the congress high command was keen that either Chandy or Chennithala should be prepared to try their luck from the prestigious Nemom seat to wrest it from the saffron party.
The decisions were announced by the the party's state leaders in New Delhi after marathon talks in the national capital to finalise candidates. The Kerala leaders met the H K Patil-led candidate screening committee and AICC general secretary K C Venugopal on Friday before announcing the decisions.
The High Command has given the go-ahead to field most of the sitting MLAs, though a shift in constituencies is likely for a few. It was decided that K C Joseph, who gave up Irikkur in Kannur district after representing it for several terms, need not be considered for any other constituency.
Thrikkakara MLA P T Thomas was considered for Peerumade, though no decision has been taken yet. Joseph Vazhackan could be fielded in Kanjirappally or even Thrikkakara instead of P T Thomas.
Leaders not cool to internal survey
Chandy and Chennithala strongly lobbied for their respective group nominees, but they were also ready to follow the guidelines suggested by the AICC for candidate selection.
Chandy demanded that former minister K Babu should be made the candidate in Thrippunithura by pointing out that the recent clean chit given to him by the Vigilance over the bar bribery case. However, it was contended that fielding Babu, against whom graft allegations were raised, would affect Congress' chances in other constituencies.
A survey conducted by the AICC gave a negative opinion about Babu, the High Command pointed out. But the state leaders claimed that the survey, conducted by the AICC to ascertain the winning prospects of candidates, was not realistic. They pointed out that some of the names that had cropped up in the survey findings did not have acceptability among the masses.
K Muraleedharan, the Vadakara MP, is reportedly reluctant to contest.
As a move was made to field him from Nemom, a BJP bastion, the senior leader reportedly posed a tough hypothetical question to the state leadership. "Will you declare me as the party's chief ministerial candidate if the party High Command wants me to contest against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at Dharmadom?" He asked.
But Muraleedharan clarified that he was ready to contest in Nemom if party's de facto national leader Rahul Gandhi calls him personally and asks him to take up the challenge.