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Sunday, March 11, 2001

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Cong. pins hope on Thennala's candidature

By Ignatius Pereira

KOLLAM, MARCH 10.Though at an embryonic stage, strong moves are understood to be afoot within the Congress to persuade the KPCC president, Mr. Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, to enter the electoral fray in the coming Assembly elections from a "very safe constituency".

While the concurrence of Mr. Pillai is vital for such a move, the intention, it is learnt, is that if Mr. Pillai agrees to contest, it will bring about the desired level of unity within the Congress, the most essential ingredient for a UDF victory.

The logic is simple. If Mr. Pillai agrees to contest, he will have to resign the KPCC president's post and this will enable the KPCC vice-president, Mr. K. Muraleedharan, to officiate as the acting KPCC president, which in turn can not only produce the much-desired unity ingredient, but can also pave the way for Mr. Muraleedharan's installation as KPCC president.

Congress sources said that the "I" faction was more than prepared to allocate one of their safe constituencies to Mr. Pillai if he agreed to contest as a candidate. Initial steps to make the formula work had been initiated by the "A" faction, sources said. However, a clear picture in this regard will emerge only after the scheduled hectic three-day ticket allocation discussions of the Congress in Thiruvananthapuram from Monday.

Meanwhile, during the same meeting, the Congress is expected to press for one more seat in the Kollam district from the existing UDF seat adjustment. The argument for this is that with the RSP(B) becoming a UDF partner, the Congress will lose two tickets in the district.

These are Kollam and Chavara where the sitting MLAs are RSP(B) members. Both these tickets were in the earlier election allocated to the Congress. This means that in the present situation, out of the 12 constituencies in the district, the Congress will be entitled to only six tickets.

Two out of these six tickets - the Kunnathur and Neduvathur constituencies - fall under the reserved category which means that only four tickets are left for the party in the open category. The four constituencies are Punalur, Chathannur, Kundara and Chadayamangalam.

However, there are atleast 13 prospective contenders within the party in the district who strongly expect getting the green signal as candidates in these four constituencies. If the Congress manages to get one more ticket, it will considerably ease the situation for the party besieged with strong group and community equations in the district.

Here again it is the caste factor which plays the pivotal role. From the Ezhava community there are five strong contenders. They are the former Ministers Mr. C.V. Padmarajan and Mr. Kadavur Sivadasan, the INTUC State president, Mr. K. Suresh Babu, the Youth Congress leader, Mr. Pratapa Varma Thampan and the former Kollam municipal chairman, Mr. Karumalil Sukumaran.

From the Nair community, there are atleast three strong contenders and they are the DCC president, Mr. K.C. Rajan, the former NGO Association leader, Mr. K. Karunakaran Pillai, and the KPCC member, Mr. Sooranad Rajashekaran.

From the Muslim community, the names in circulation are that of Ms. Jameela Ibrahim, Mr. A.A. Samad and Mr. Hidur Mohammed. Only one prominent name figures from the Christian community (Latin Catholic) and that is of the DCC vice-president and KPCC member, Prof. Marydasan.

For earning the crucial additional constituency, the Congress targets the three constituencies of Eravipuram, Pathanapuram and Karunagappally. While Eravipuram was allocated to the Muslim League in the last Assembly election, Pathanapuram was allocated to the Kerala Congress(B) and Karunagapally to the JSS.

The sources said that Eravipuram would however be the most desired choice for the party and that some moves in this regard had been made by trying to swap Thiruvananthapuram (West) with the Muslim League. However, the Muslim League district president, Mr. Yunus Kunju, is adamant on Eravipuram. This will in all probability make the Congress go to the JSS door for getting the Karunagapally constituency in exchange for a constituency outside the district.

Meanwhile, it has been reliably learnt that Mr. Kadavur Sivadasan of the "I" faction who has been eyeing the Kundara constituency has been asked by the faction leadership to stand down in favour of the DCC president, Mr. K.C. Rajan, on assurance that the former will be accommodated elsewhere.

Yet, Kundara is a constituency in the district for which the "A" faction will make a strong claim. By virtue of being a constituency where the Latin Catholic community has considerable strength, the "A" faction believes that if Prof. Marydasan from their group, who is also a native of Kundara, is fielded there, he will win hands down especially in a situation where the LDF is confused about announcing their candidate from the constituency despite the sitting MLA being a CPI(M) member.

Both factions at the same time make one thing clear. They will unitedly oppose any move from the party to impose an "outsider" as the Congress candidate in any of the constituencies under the district.

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