As Kerala list gets ready, will there be fireworks in Congress?

Thiruvananthapuram: Leaders and ordinary party workers of the Congress in Kerala are watching eagerly as the list of candidates who will contest the April 6 assembly polls is being readied.

Over the years the Congress party has been deeply divided in three and at times four factions led by leaders like Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and Vayalar Ravi. When it comes to the selection of candidates, it's these faction leaders who have an edge and manage to get their candidates the party ticket.

The Congress party this time is expected to contest around 94 of the 140 assembly seats, leaving the rest to its allies and 22 sitting legislators have all been cleared.

Already the first round of fireworks began when angry Youth Congress workers in Kollam district raised the banner of revolt after word went around that the Chadayamanagalam assembly seat, always contested by the Congress party, might be given to the Indian Union Muslim League. On Tuesday, senior Congress leader A.V. Gopinath at Palakkad expressed his ire that the present state and national leadership is ignoring leaders who have served the party for long.

"Even though I have not gone after anyone seeking a seat to contest, what has hurt me is the way some leaders are being sidelined. This should not happen and if need be, I might even contest, against the Congress. I don't think anyone can take me for granted forever," said Gopinath.

MP and working president of the state Congress party K. Sudhakaran reacted by saying that he heard about Gopinath's unhappiness.

"We will definitely speak to him and hear him and do our best to placate him," said Sudhakaran.

Murmurs have also started among the rank and file in the party that more fireworks can be expected as a large number of familiar faces who have had a long innings and have contested many times are in the list of candidates.

Those whose names have already invited displeasure include eight-time legislator K.C. Joseph, who is 75 and is seeking another term.

The others whose names have been circulating and who have already raised hackles include Thampanoor Ravi, Palode Ravi, Joseph Vazhakan, P.C. Chacko, P.J. Kurian, Pandalam Sudhakaran, Sakthan Nadar, Bindhu Krishna, Laly Vincent, Lathika Subhash, Padmaja Venugopal (daughter of K. Karunakaran) Soornad Rajasekheran, to name a few.

Fissures have surfaced in the Congress party in Pathanamthitta and posters have also appeared warning that things will be bad for the party if candidate selection is not done properly.

The Congress party, on account of fielding familiar names, has lost very badly in districts like Kollam, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Palakkad and Alappuzha which together account for close to 45 per cent of the total seats in Kerala.

Meanwhile Rahul Gandhi who made a quick trip to the state capital on Monday night enroute from Kanyakumari to Delhi held discussions with the top brass here.

"He has already been actively involved in discussing the list and following his meeting with the leaders on Tuesday morning the selection committee had a meeting. In the coming days, the top leaders would leave to Delhi, from where the final list will be released," said another top leader, who did not wish to be identified.

And if anyone thinks that there will be no fireworks then it would be wishful thinking, confided another Congress leader.

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