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Kerala Assembly elections: High drama in Congress over candidate for only BJP seat

On Saturday, Ooommen Chandy’s home constituency Puthuppally witnessed emotional scenes, with hundreds of Congress workers protesting against the move to field Chandy in Nemom. Chandy has been representing Puthuppally for the last five decades.

Kerala Assembly elections: High drama in Congress over candidate for only BJP seatThe two-time Chief Minister has been representing Puthupally in the state Assembly for the last 51 years since 1970s. (Express File Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

A high political drama is unfolding in the state unit of Congress over fielding party candidate in Nemom Assembly constituency, the only sitting seat of BJP in Kerala.

With CPI (M) and Congress keen to prove their credentials in the fight against BJP, there is a demand for a strong party candidate for Nemom.

Party leaders are of the opinion that Congress fielding a heavyweight in Nemom, which BJP wanted to describe as the party’s Gujarat in Kerala, would send a strong message to secular and minority votes that the party is serious in taking on BJP in the state.

In media reports from Delhi, names of senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala have emerged as candidates under consideration for Nemom. On Saturday, Chandy’s home constituency Puthuppally witnessed emotional scenes, with hundreds of Congress workers protesting against the move to field Chandy in Nemom. Chandy has been representing Puthuppally for the last five decades.

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Hundreds of Congress workers, including women, thronged Chandy’s residence at Puthuppally in Kottayam, shouting slogans against the reported move to pit Chandy against BJP in Nemom.

As the protest continued, Chandy told party workers, “Party high command has not asked me to contest from Nemom. But, I was keen to get the views of my voters in Puthuppally about contesting in Nemom. There is no question of me leaving Puthupally. Congress wants to have strong candidates in all constituencies,’’ he said.

Chennithala, who returned from Delhi after deliberations with the party screening committee, told the media in Kochi that he would contest in his sitting seat Haripad in Alappuzha. “Haripad is like a mother to me. There is no dispute over candidates. Nemom would get a strong candidate,’’ he said, indicating that he is not keen to contest in Nemom.

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In the last assembly elections, Congress conceded Nemom seat to a minor ally Janata Dal (U), while CPI (M) fielded senior leader V Sivankutty against BJP veteran O Rajagopal. UDF got only 9 percent of votes as against BJP’s 47 per cent and LDF 41 per cent. In 2001 and 2006, Congress had won from Nemom when the party fielded senior leader N Sakthan. But in 2011, Congress handed over the seat to then ally Social Democratic Party, which helped BJP finish as runner-up in that election. As Congress failed to field its own candidate in 2016, BJP emerged winner at the cost of UDF votes.

Congress sources said if the party fails to find a strong candidate against BJP after raising this commotion over a seat, it would be again construed as the party’s failure to address the Sangh Parivar threat in Kerala.

First published on: 13-03-2021 at 04:18:48 pm
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