Congress' bad moves in Kerala

A day after the results of the 16th Lok Sabha elections came out, sealing the fate of the United Democratic Front (UDF) with a 12-seat victory, signs of internal friction re-emerged within the Congress-led alliance in at least three constituencies in Kerala.

The UDF ended up with 12 of the 20 seats, eight of them won by Congress candidates, who were also sitting MPs.

The climb down in the tally from 16 in 2009’s Lok Sabha elections, however, is largely being attributed to the Congress’ move to swap its Thrissur and Chalakudy candidates.
P C Chacko, AICC spokesperson and then Thrissur MP, wanted to move out of the constituency citing possibilities of factionalism in the party that would spoil his prospects. The Congress, in a bid to pacify the senior national leader, asked a reluctant K P Dhanapalan, then Chalakudy MP, to contest from Chacko’s Thrissur seat.

Both candidates, however, had to face a crushing defeat on Friday, with Chacko losing to Left-backed Independent Innocent by 13,884 votes and CPI’s C N Jayadevan trumping Dhanapalan by 38,227 votes.

Dhanapalan did not hesitate to attribute his loss to the fact he did not contest from Chalakudy.

“I did not want to move out of Chalakudy but I had to give in to pressure from senior leaders. I had established strong links with the electorate and would have won from Chalakudy,” an emotional Dhanapalan told reporters.

Chacko dismissed Dhanapalan’s claim and said the twin-loss had nothing to do with them contesting from each other’s constituencies.

The Congress seems to have erred in Idukki, too, where much of the campaigning was based on the Kasturirangan report. The party prevented then Idukki parliamentarian P T Thomas, who had serious differences with the Catholic church, from contesting. Instead, they fielded Dean Kuriakose, who ended up losing to Left-backed Independent Joice George by 50,542 votes. A group of party workers on Saturday claimed that the district leadership itself had sabotaged the Congress candidate’s chances. Kuriakose, meanwhile, is getting ready to apprise the state leadership on the issue. Shashi Tharoor’s modest victory margin in the capital Thiruvananthapuram – from close to one lakh votes in 2009 to 15,470 – also indicated a switch in traditional Congress votes.

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