Congress workers on March 19 feted MLA K. Muraleedharan amidst strong indications that the party's central leadership had chosen him to fight P. Jayarajan, strongman of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in Kannur in the coming Lok Sabha election.
They are likely to contest from the Vadakara constituency in North Kerala.
Setting the stage for a sharply bipolar and highly charged electoral battle in a political turf that witnessed internecine strife between the Congress, the BJP and the CPI(M) workers recently, Mr. Muraleedharan said democracy would defeat the abhorrent subculture of political violence institutionalised by the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the State.
"I am ready to give a strong fight now that the party has asked me to do so. It does not matter who my opponent is. Only the ideological alignment of the candidates' matter. The Congress strongly condemns the use of assassination as a political tool to eliminate dissenters. That is going to be the central plank of the electoral battle against the CPI(M) in Vadakara", he said.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee(KPCC) president Mullapally Ramachandran told reporters in New Delhi that he had broached Mr. Muraleedharan's name with senior party leaders and the party president was scheduled to announce his decision soon.
Mr. Ramachandran attempted to typecast Mr. Jayarajan as the archetype of the ''brutal politics of annihilation practised by the CPI(M)'' in Kerala. He claimed that the CPI(M) in Vadakara was opposed to Jayarajan's candidature because of his violent past.
The CBI had incriminated the CPI(M) veteran in the killing of RSS activist Kathiroor Manoj and Indian Union Muslim League activist Ariyil Abdul Shukkoor. Mr. Jayarajan has protested his innocence and slammed both accusations as politically motivated ones and that they would have no bearing on the general election.
Mr. Jayarajan represented Koothuparamba as its MLA in 2001 and 2006. He served as the Kannur district secretary of the party since 2010 till stepping down to fight the Lok Sabha election from Vadakara. He is known for his strong grass roots level association with party workers and left fellow travellers.
Mr. Muraleedharan, in contrast, brings to the polls his strength as an adroit politician who was elected thrice to the Lok Sabha from Kozhikode in 1989, 1991 and 1999. He has strong political roots in Vadakara, and had served as KPCC president between 2001 and 2004.
The Congress has reckoned that Mr. Muraleedharan stood a good chance of trouncing Mr. Jayarajan owing to the support of the Revolutionary Marxist Party(RMP).
K. K. Rema, wife of slain RMP leader T. P. Chandrasekharan, has stated that her party would campaign against Mr. Jayarajan and his brand of "violent politics" with the support of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Vadakara. The RMP has accused the CPI(M) of orchestrating Chandrasekharan's murder in 2012 in retaliation for his defection from the party to form the RMP.
The BJP is reportedly set to field V.K. Sajeevan, a relatively lesser-known leader compared to Mr. Jayarajan and Muraleedharan, in Vadakara.