RS Polls: Vacant seats in Kerala challenge leading political parties

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Antony, who was at his home here till a few days ago, left for Delhi, and sources said he has already informed the two-time former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, State Congress president K.Sudhakaran and other senior leaders that he is not interested for another term…reports Sanu V George

With the polls to the three Rajya Sabha seats to be held on March 31, the coming days could be a testing time for the leading political parties in Kerala — the ruling CPI-M led Left and the Congress-led opposition.

Those who are retiring include 81-year-old Congress veteran A.K. Antony, K. Somaprasad (CPI-M) and M.V. Shreyams Kumar, who leads the Loktantrik Janata Dal, an ally of the Left.

With the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan government enjoying a full majority in the 140-member Assembly, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Left Democratic Front will win two and the Congress-led opposition one.

Antony, who was at his home here till a few days ago, left for Delhi, and sources said he has already informed the two-time former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, State Congress president K.Sudhakaran and other senior leaders that he is not interested for another term.

If Antony is not considered in accordance with his wishes, then it would be difficult for the faction-ridden Congress to decide a candidate. The claimants are many, including outgoing state party president and former Union Minister Mullapally Ramachandran and K.V. Thomas, who was deeply upset when he was not given his sitting Ernakulam Lok Sabha seat in 2019.

The other person who might be in the reckoning is Cherian Phillip, who after more than two decades after ditching the Congress party, returned last year.

Phillip was the closest aide of Antony till he left the party in 2001.

With both Ramachandran and Thomas having had a long innings in Delhi, talks have begun that it would be unfortunate if they are considered again and the name of V.T. Balram, a two-time young legislator was defeated by the present Speaker of the Kerala Assembly M.B, Rajesh, is another one who might be considered.

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Besides these, there are other hopefuls also, who have started moving their cards.

Unlike the Congress, the ruling CPI-M has a different problem and with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reigning supreme in both the party and the government, the only thing that needs to be looked into is whether the CPI-M will take both the seats or will the second biggest ally in the Left — CPI – be given a seat.

In all likelihood, with the CPI already having Binoy Viswan in the Upper House, Vijayan will be taking both the seats and like what has been happening in the party.

Last year, Vijayan sprang a surprise when he brought in his closest aide, senior journalist and one who handled the public relation campaigns of the government — John Brittas and Sivadasan to the Rajya Sabha, much to the surprise of many.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife that of the two seats, one might go to a national leader of the CPI-M and it could be top notch leaders like general secretary Sitaram Yechuri or someone of that calibre and the other one could be a female comrade, as he is not very keen to give chance to leaders like the economist-turned two-time State Finance Minister Thomas Issac, or A.K. Balan, all of whom have had long innings.

A media critic on condition of anonymity said if Antony is not going to be returned, then it could cause utter chaos in the Congress.

“But in the CPI-M, there is not going to be even a whimper of protest because of Vijayan’s dominance. The only thing to be watched out is will the CPI or even the NCP stake a claim even as outgoing member Shreyams Kumar will also make a last ditch effort to get the seat. But the CPI-M and Vijayan are determined to increase their party strength in Parliament as they want to be key players when it comes to forming a non-BJP non-Congress political front in Delhi, and hence in all probability the CPI-M will take both the seats,” said the critic.