Congress looks to expand its presence in region using space vacated by Mani group
As seat-sharing talks in the United Democratic Front (UDF) gather momentum ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections, the assertion of rights by the Congress and the P.J. Joseph group over the seats where the Jose K. Mani-led Kerala Congress (M) had contested previously seems to have put the coalition in a quandary.
Of the nine Assembly constituencies in Kottayam, the coalition has almost arrived at a consensus over the candidates in as many as four seats, including Pala. The candidates in four out of the five remaining seats where both parties look to affirm their presence, however, will be finalised only after multiple rounds of discussions.
While the Kerala Congress of Mr. Joseph initially sought to contest in all the six seats it had contested previously, the Congress, which looks to expand its presence across the region using the space vacated by the Mani group, is keen on allotting the regional party not more than three seats. They have also not responded favourably to a demand by Mr. Joseph to allot an additional seat instead of handing over the Pala seat to Mani C. Kappan, MLA.
“The seats of Kottayam, Puthuppally, and Kaduthuruthy will go to the sitting legislators — Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Oommen Chandy, and Mons Joseph respectively. At the same time, Mr. Kappan has already given an assurance on Pala. Of the remaining five seats, Vaikom traditionally belongs to the Congress while both the Congress and Joseph group will have to drive a hard bargain for the Changanassery, Poonjar, Kanjirappally, and Ettumanur seats,” pointed out a senior UDF leader.
To complicate the matters further, the Kerala Janapaksham (Secular) led by P.C. George, MLA, is persisting with his efforts to join the coalition despite the strong protests at the grassroots, especially at Erattupetta. “In that case, the Poonjar seat too will have to be taken out of the discussions as in the case of Pala,” he added.
The Left Democratic Front, on the other hand, is learned to have assured the Kerala Congresss (M) of allotting it all of its sitting seats, including Kanjirappally. The Communist Party of India, which previously contested from the seat, is likely to get Changanassery or Poonjar instead.