Kerala's political parties grapple over seat-sharing (Kerala Newsletter)
All eyes are on the Congress and the CPI-M in Kerala to see how they share seats with their allies ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Kerala sends 20 Lok Sabha members and in the state's bi-polar political spectrum, the seats have always been won by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF).
In the 2009 polls, the UDF won 16 and the LDF got four seats. This time around, rumblings have begun in the UDF with allies like the Indian Union Muslim League, which has two seats and the Kerala Congress (Mani) with one seat, both asking for an extra seat and new ally Socialist Janata Democratic Party asking for one.
The issue in Kerala Congress (Mani) has risen following the merger of the majority faction of the erstwhile Kerala Congress (Joseph), then in the LDF, with the UDF ahead of the 2011 assembly polls.
The Idukki Lok Sabha seat was always contested by Kerala Congress (Joseph) when in the LDF. But now, demands by leaders of the erstwhile faction have ruffled feathers in the UDF.
"How can the loser (Francis George, the then Kerala Congress (Joseph) candidate for the Idukki seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls) stake claims for that seat from the Congress candidate (P.T. Thomas) who won?" P.C. George, Kerala Congress (Mani) vice chairman and the government's chief whip, asked while speaking to IANS.
"The demand for the Idukki seat by the erstwhile Kerala Congress (Joseph) who are now in our party appears to have dimmed as they have now realised the reality, after (CPI-M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said a firm 'no' to their re-entry into the LDF," George added.
"We have started talks with our allies and very soon we are confident that all issues would be sorted out and the UDF will face the polls as a cohesive unit," Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.
Meanwhile in the LDF, the CPI has more or less settled for four seats, while it's going to be a bonus for the CPI-M, as there are two additional seats with the exit of Kerala Congress (Joseph) and the newly-formed SJD.
"It's not fair on the part of the CPI-M to take away the seats of the allies. We have a claim to one seat. We did win the Kollam seat in 1996 and we should get it back," said RSP national general secretary T.J. Chandrachoodan.
Claims have also been put forward by the RSP, the JD-S and the breakaway faction of the erstwhile Kerala Congress (Joseph) which is now led by former Lok Sabha member P.C. Thomas.
The coming weeks are crucial as any break up, either inter-party or intra-party, could prove costly.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 28-02-2014)