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Monday, April 12, 2021

Kerala elections: CPM sets term limit, 5 ministers out

Thomas Isaac among those denied tickets as the party releases list of 83 names.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: March 11, 2021 12:02:24 am

IGNORING some discontent, the ruling CPM on Wednesday released its list for the Kerala elections on Wednesday benching 33 of its sitting MLAs, as it implemented its two-term limit policy for the first time. While six ministers have been re-fielded, along with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, among the five denied tickets was Finance Minister Thomas Isaac.

A popular leader, Isaac won last time from Alappuzha by a huge margin. The local unit of the CPM has been demanding that he be fielded again, with the party having made concessions in its policy, including in the case of Isaac, to allow legislators to contest after two successive terms. Pinarayi and Isaac have publicly differed on issues, and the Finance Minister was once seen as a rival power centre within the party.

The CPM also went ahead and gave a ticket to P Nandakumar, despite a host of resignations in local party committees in recent days against his candidature. They wanted T M Siddique to be nominated.

The CPM has argued that the two-term limit is meant to allow infusion of fresh talent into the legislative ranks, especially from among those who have spent long years in the organisation. “The objective is not to avoid anyone. New and talented people should be given opportunities. This is the best model of the democratic outlook of the CPM-led LDF,” LDF convenor and CPM acting secretary Vijayaraghavan said Wednesday, announcing a list of 83 candidates — 74 CPM leaders and nine Independents backed by the LDF.

The list incidentally includes Vijayaraghavan’s wife R Bindu and Pinarayi’s son-in-law P A Mohamed Riyas.

Candidates for two seats, Manjeswaram and Devikulam, will be announced later, he said.

The CPM, which had contested 90 of the 140 seats in the 2016 Assembly elections and won 58, is fighting on 85 constituencies this time, having given up a few to accommodate new allies Kerala Congress (M) and Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD).

Of the 83 candidates fielded by the CPM, there are 12 women, four of whom are sitting MLAs and two of them ministers.

While Pinarayi will fight the election from his home turf of Dharmadom in Kannur district again, the other ministers back in the race are: Health Minister K K Shailaja from Mattannur; Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel as an Independent from Thavanur; Minister for Local Self-Government A C Moideen from Kunnamkulam; Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran from Kazhakootam; Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma from Kundara; Power Minister M M Mani from Udubanchola; and Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan from Perambra.

Apart from Isaac, ministers G Sudhakaran (PWD), Prof G Raveendranath (School Education), A K Balan (Law and Culture), and E P Jayarajan (Industries) won’t be contesting.

Senior leaders with past parliamentary experience have been fielded from constituencies where the CPM is considered to be struggling. For example, two-time Palakkad MP M B Rajesh has been fielded from Thrithala in a likely contest against young Congress leader V T Balram, who won in 2011 and 2016. Former Rajya Sabha MP and one of the party’s articulate voices, P Rajeev, has been fielded from Kalamassery, a stronghold of the IUML.

In 2015, late BJP leader Arun Jaitley had famously requested Sitaram Yechury on the floor of Parliament to bring back Rajeev to the Rajya Sabha as the latter always “kept whoever was in the government on their toes”. K N Balagopal, another Rajya Sabha veteran, has been fielded from Kottarakkara in Kollam district.

Other young names in the CPM list include K M Sachin Dev (Balussery), Jaik C Thomas, who will in all likelihood face former Congress CM Oommen Chandy from Puthuppally, and former Thiruvananthapuram mayor V K Prasanth from Vattiyoorkavu.

Among the leaders who have been moved after long years in the party organisation to the electoral field are M V Govindan Master, who will fight from Thaliparambu in Kannur district; and Kottayam district secretary V N Vasavan, from Ettumanoor, a seat known to waver between LDF and UDF.

Asked about the CPM list, Isaac told reporters in Alappuzha, “It is the need of the people of Alappuzha to have P P Chitharanjan elected as their representative.” Chitharanjan is the CPM candidate from Alappuzha.

T M Siddique, whom the local party workers wanted fielded from Ponnani, said, “No protest should cross the boundaries of the party decision. Everyone in Ponnani will support the CPM state committee’s decision to field P Nandakumar. The party is above an individual.”

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