The stand-off between Kerala PCC chief VM Sudheeran and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy continued to delay the declaration of the Congress’ candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections.
The national leadership of the Congress is attempting a rapproachement between the two leaders who, along with a number of second-rung State leaders, have been camping in Delhi since Monday. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has intervened and reportedly held one-on-one meetings with Chandy, Sudheeran and Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala. Other national leaders like Mukul Wasnik, AK Antony and Gulam Nabi Azad have also been trying to end the deadlock and get the list of candidates announced soon.
It is Sudheeran’s stand that three Ministers – Adoor Prakash, KC Joseph and K Babu – and two other sitting MLAs should not be fielded again, and Chandy’s insistence that all of them should be given tickets that has caused the deadlock. Sudheeran, who along with Chandy and Chennithala, had taken the shortlist of candidates to the party’s screening committee meeting in Delhi, argued that all those who had faced corruption allegations and those who had already contested four times before should be excluded. Chandy and Chennithala had opposed this stand and contended that winnability should be the only criterion.
Sudheeran’s stand did not find favour with the screening committee. At the meeting on Tuesday, the committee cleared candidates for 49 of the 82 seats. However, following Sudheeran’s strong objections to fielding the three ministers and the two sitting MLAs, the committee put off its meeting for Friday.
Sudheeran argued that while K Babu was involved in the bar bribery scandal, Prakash had allegedly facilitated the ‘land gifts’ to several business houses during the closing days of the Oommen Chandy Government. KC Joseph had already contested from his Irikkur constituency eight times in a row. Sudheeran contended that if the corruption-tainted ministers were fielded again, it would damage the UDF campaign. Chandy is reported to have asserted that if Sudheeran stuck to his gun, he (Chandy) would not contest the election and would keep off the campaign.
A senior Congress functionary told BusinessLine that the deadlock would be lifted at Friday’s screening committee meeting as intense parleys were going on to bring the two leaders to an agreement.
He pointed out that the party was under tremendous pressure to release the candidates’ list early as the UDF was far behind the LDF and the NDA in electioneering.