After weeks of heated deliberations, the Congress Sunday announced candidates for 86 of the 92 seats it is contesting in Kerala. Candidates for the remaining six seats will be declared after further discussions with the national leadership, state Congress president Mullappally Ramachandran said in New Delhi.
The party has fielded all its sitting legislators, except K C Joseph. There is a clear generational shift, with 46 persons out of the 92 in the age group of 25-50. Besides, 50% of the candidates are first-timers.
Among the candidates are Dr P Sarin, who had quit the Indian Accounts and Audit Service, and public health expert Dr S S Lal. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy managed to get his loyalist K Babu as candidate in Thrippunithura.
The highlight of the list was the nomination of Vadakara MP K Muraleedharan from Nemom, the only seat the BJP currently holds. By fielding Muraleedharan, a former state president and the son of late chief minister K Karunakaran, the party has fulfilled its promise of fielding a heavyweight from the seat. In 2016, the BJP’s O Rajagopal had won by over 8,000 votes.
Though Chandy’s name also did the rounds for Nemom, he was ultimately fielded from his pocketborough of Puthuppally. Emotional scenes were seen at Puthuppally on Saturday amidst news that Chandy may be shifted.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Congress had conceded Nemom seat to a minor ally, Janata Dal (U). The UDF had got only 9% of votes against the BJP’s 47% and LDF’s 41%.
Other prominent names in the list include outgoing Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala from Haripad, former home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan from Kottayam, Youth Congress state president Shafi Parambil from Palakkad and state Congress vice-president V D Satheeshan from Paravur.
In an embarrassment for the party, protesting against just nine women in the list, Mahila Congress state chief Lathika Subhash resigned and tonsured her head. The 56-year-old was denied a ticket from Ettumanoor, her home-town.
Asked about Subhash’s exclusion, Ramachandran said, “She had asked for Ettumanoor. But we had to give the seat to our ally, Kerala Congress (Joseph).”
Protests were also seen in other places, with former Congress Pathanamthitta district president Mohan Raj and KPCC secretary Ramani P Nair quitting the party. In Irikkur, K C Joseph protested as ticket was denied to his supporter Sony Sebastian.