On the expected lines, the various faction managers in the Congress turned out to be the real winners, though top party leaders in Kerala had said that it would be the winnability factor that would count, when the candidate list is decided.
Kerala goes to the polls on April 6 to elect 140 Legislators.
State Congress chief Mullapally Ramachandran harped on the fact that the list of 86 candidates of his party will be considered as one of the most seriously selected lists and the party will be proud of it.
However, on closer perusal of the list, what has become evident is the various faction managers — Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, new power house in the party – K.C. Venugopal and to a certain extent Ramachandran — ensured that the winnability was not the key factor. Instead, it was closeness to these top leaders seems to be the main selection criteria as they managed to sneak in their aides in the list.
The first act of indiscipline came out when one of the top women leaders, president of the Women’s wing of the Congress party — Lathika Subhash — after hearing that she was not in the list, protested. She got her head tonsured, leaving the top brass perplexed and it remains to be seen if she would stand as a rebel candidate from Ettumanoor in Kottayam district — a seat that she expected to get.
Kannur Lok Sabha member K. Sudhakaran said that it was not the winnability but the faction leaders wrangling for seats for their close aides and that was one reason for the huge unrest that has surfaced across the state in the party, with protests spilling on to the streets.
Widespread protests have broken out in Kollam, Palakkad, Kannur parts of Kozhikode and several other places, after disappointment surfaced over the list of candidates.
“Every leader was interfering and trying to push in their aides and had the party chosen candidates based on set parameters, the present unrest could have been avoided,” said Sudhakaran.
But the party has been able to put out the best candidate after giving exemption to Lok Sabha member K. Muraleedharan, son of K.Karunakaran, to take on the only seat that the BJP has in the state at Nemom in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Kerala BJP unit calls Nemom as the “Gujarat of Kerala”.
Six more seats in the Congress party have to be announced and here again there is another mad scramble and it includes Kalpetta seat in the Lok Sabha constituency of Rahul Gandhi.
Also waiting in the wings is Aryadan Shoukat, son of former Congress Minister and one of the top most faction leaders in the Chandy faction, Aryadan Mohammed.
A senior leader on the condition of anonymity said when it came to sharing the ‘booty’, all these faction leaders are united and they in order to get their close aides, sacrifice real grassroots Congress workers.
“You have 78-year-old Peethamabra Kurup, who last contested in 2009 and Muraleedharan extracted his pound of flesh, for contesting from Nemom, and that was how Kurup sneaked in. Chandy also got in his close aide K.Babu and is still fighting it out for P.C. Vishnunath and T. Siddique, so did Chennithala who got a seat for Joseph Vazhakan.
“And Ramachandran batted for a political novice — a medical doctor S.S.Lal at the Kazhakootam constituency, which the party finished third in the 2016 polls. 69-year-old veteran E.M. Augusthy is another one who has returned after a long while. All who know how the Congress party works, are the least surprised. Now let us hope for the best,” said the leader.
Likewise, Karunakaran’s daughter — Padmaja Venugopal, who had contested and lost the Lok Sabha and in 2016 Assembly polls, is also in the list — thanks to A.K. Antony, who is always known for having a soft corner towards her.
Another surprise selection was popular comedian Dharmajan Bolghatty, who is trying his luck from Balussery in Kozhikode district.
However, the Congress has brought in 26-year-old Aritha Babu at Kayamkulam in Alappuzha district to take on sitting CPI-M Legislator Prathiba Hair.
Babu is a former local body member of the Congress and she ekes out a living taking care of her cows and sells milk.
“We have a lot of pride in bringing her as a candidate,” said Ramachandran.
But trying to put a brave face and trying to play down all the rumblings that have broken out, Chennithala said it is not true that the seats have been shared by the leaders among themselves.
“I will say this time, things have been very fair when it came to the selection. All of you please take a look into our list once more,” said Chennithala.