The Congress high command on Monday bowed to the pressure of All India Congress Committee general secretary Oommen Chandy by clearing the name of his close aide T. Siddique for the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat.
Yet, selecting a candidate for Vadakara turned out to be a challenge, especially in the context of the strong presence of Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate P. Jayarajan and the kind of electoral fight that is shaping up for the seat.
Mr. Siddique’s name was cleared but only after factionalism touched a new low. Mr. Chandy had thrown his weight behind Mr. Siddique at the Congress Central Election Committee (CEC) meeting on Saturday and returned home before the meeting concluded.
The CEC referred the decision on four seats — Wayanad, Vadakara, Attingal and Alappuzha — to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for a final resolution.
On Monday, the factional tussle continued behind the scenes with Mr. Chandy refusing to budge.
The Congress president reportedly asked the Kerala leaders to arrive at a consensus. Subsequently, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala acceded to Mr. Chandy’s pressure since he felt he had a higher stake in a United Democratic Front victory as Leader of the Opposition.
An understanding on Wayanad paved the way for Adoor Prakash’s candidature from Attingal and Shanimol Usman’s from Alappuzha. This is not for the first time that Vadakara is posing a challenge to the Congress.
In 2009, the party had to grapple with candidate selection at a time when the CPI(M) was on the back foot after the Janata Dal (S) headed by M.P. Veerendra Kumar had quit the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
The choice finally fell on Mullappally Ramachandran, who went on to win the seat for two consecutive terms.
In the upcoming election, the Congress has the onerous task of fielding a candidate against a candidate who has been branded by the party as the face of political violence.
The Congress leaders will also have to examine the undercurrent that the CPI(M) candidate might trigger because of what his party says is his strident stand against majority and minority fundamentalism and its impact on some of the Malabar constituencies.
The AICC was reportedly flooded with e-mail and fax messages urging it to field a strong candidate in Vadakara. It was not surprising that the Congress candidates from Malabar constituencies too shared the view that Mr. Ramachandran should be in the fray.
Till late in the evening, Mr. Ramachandran held out refusing to enter the electoral fray from Vadakara.