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Monday, April 19, 2021

Kerala Assembly Elections 2021: Seat allocation with partners proves tricky for CPM, Congress

For the LDF, the biggest challenge in seat distribution pertains to the Kerala Congress (M), the regional party headed by Jose K Mani which wields influence primarily among Catholic Christian voters in central Kerala.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi |
Updated: March 13, 2021 4:28:00 pm
Kerala Assembly Elections 2021, LDF, UDFKerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI leader Binoy Visvam at an event on Friday. (File Photo: PTI)

The LDF and the UDF are expected to finalise seat-sharing arrangements among their respective partners by the end of the week, for the Kerala Assembly election scheduled on April 6.

The two fronts will then proceed to the more contentious process of zeroing in on the best candidates for the 140 constituencies in Kerala. There’s pressure from the cadres on the leadership of both fronts to include more women and youngsters in the candidate list.

For the LDF, the biggest challenge in seat distribution pertains to the Kerala Congress (M), the regional party headed by Jose K Mani which wields influence primarily among Catholic Christian voters in central Kerala. The KC(M), which was a long-standing ally of the Congress, had crossed over to the CPM-led front in October last year.

While the KC(M) has pressed for 15 seats, the CPM, the leader of the coalition, wants to limit it to less than 10 seats. The CPM and the CPI will have to shed some of their own seats to accommodate the KC(M). Kanjirappally and Irikkur, which were contested by CPI in the last election, and seats like Irinjalakuda, Taliparamba, Alathur and Ettumanoor, which were in the CPM domain last time, are expected to go to KC(M). As a result, CPM and CPI are likely to fight on fewer seats compared to 2016.

There’s also the question of accommodating smaller parties like the new-found ally Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), Janata Dal (S) and a faction of the NCP. They are not parties with mass base, but have individual leaders capable of winning in select constituencies. The CPM had directed the LJD and JD(S) to merge, since they were both socialist parties that emerged out of the Janata Dal. But the leadership of the two parties have been unable to arrive at a consensus. Allocating seats to these parties will happen, once again, at the cost of the CPI(M). Bargains will be made on seats like Thiruvalla, Ambalapuzha, Vatakara and Koothuparambu.

As for the UDF, the talks on seat allocation will face hurdles primarily with the Kerala Congress (Joseph) which wants 15 seats. The Congress leadership is learnt to be keen on not giving more than 8 seats as it understands the limitations of that party. There are calls within the Congress leadership to take over some of the KC(J) seats and field strong candidates to win those seats. At the same time, it doesn’t want a situation where the KC(J) is forced to walk out of the alliance and field rebel candidates. Disputes are expected to arise on seats like Irinjalakuda, Muvattupuzha and Kothamangalam.

Seat allocation talks have been finalised with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which will most likely contest on 27 seats, three more than what it fought in 2016.

Once the seat-distribution is confirmed, the Congress steering committee will hold meetings next week to take the final call on candidates. The AICC has asked the state leadership to nominate at least 1 woman candidate in each of the 14 districts. There will also be greater youth representation and some celebrity candidates, according to party insiders.

While Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala will once again try his luck from Haripad, it’s not clear if former CM Oommen Chandy will fight from his pocket-borough of Puthuppally or move to a tougher seat which the Congress can wrest from its rival party. There’s also no confirmation on whether Congress state president Mullappally Ramachandran will be a candidate.

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