Sonia meets top Kerala leaders over stalemate on candidates

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, March 31 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday held separate meetings with three top leaders of Kerala — Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and state Congress chief V.M. Sudheeran — to sort out differences over selection of candidates for the assembly polls.

The candidate selection hit a roadblock when Sudheeran reached Delhi on Monday and told the party leadership that he wanted a few ticket hopefuls to stand down this time.

They include Excise Minister K. Babu, who is facing allegations in the bar scam, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, who is embroiled in a row over land transfer, Culture Minister K.C. Joseph who has been a legislator since 1982, Benny Behanan for allegedly having links with solar panel scam accused, and legislator A.T. George.

Chandy on Wednesday took a strong stand and made it clear that under no circumstances can any of these five legislators be asked to stand down.

He said that if this was to happen, he will also stand down as he was also facing allegations.

“He (Chandy) made it clear that under no circumstances can any of these sitting legislators be asked to stand down. He has convinced the party president (Sonia Gandhi) why he is standing firm,” a source close to Chandy told IANS.

After meeting Gandhi, a not-too-happy Sudheeran told reporters that he only discussed with her the party’s affairs in Kerala.

Chandy, according to sources, was not happy when Chennithala sought to play truce and requested the chief minister to see that things were amicably settled.

On Friday, a final meeting will be held in the presence of Gandhi, where all the issues are likely to be sorted out.

“Of the 82 seats the Congress party will contest, close to 70 seats have been cleared. In tomorrow’s (Friday’s) meeting, the remaining also will be sorted out,” said the source.

In a lighter vein, the source added that this has been very common in the Kerala unit of the Congress for many decades.

Polls for the 140-member Kerala assembly will be held on May 16.

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