After a week-long drama and discussion, the Congress high command on Monday released the candidates’ list for May 16 assembly elections in Kerala.
The process was delayed after differences cropped up between PCC chief VM Sudheeran and chief minister Oommen Chandy.
According to party insiders, Sudheeran wanted at least two ministers who are facing corruption charges to be kept out of the list but the CM insisted that it would send a wrong message if they were denied seats.
Chandy reportedly said he would also opt out of the contest if his ministers were dropped.
The Muslim League, the second biggest partner in the UDF, said it will be suicidal to go to elections without Chandy.
Apart from excise minister K Babu and revenue minister Adoor Prakash, the PCC chief also wanted three senior legislators to be kept out for accommodating young candidates.
Benny Behnan failed to find a place in the final list and former MP, PT Thomas, will contest from Thrikkakara instead.
Out of 86 seats the party is contesting, candidates were announced in 83 constituencies and the remaining three will be decided in a few days.
Of the 39 sitting MLAs, 33 would contest this time. Three legislators were dropped on the ground of health and three opted out.
Youngsters and women have been included in the list. Besides CM and home minister Ramesh Chennithala, late leader K Karunakaran’s daughter Padmaja Vneugopla and son K Murlidharan, a sitting MLA, figured in the list.
The CM has emerged stronger in the latest round. Though party vice-president Rahul Gandhi was keen on grounding ministers and legislators facing charges, the high command did not want to antagonise Chandy who is leading the campaign, Congress sources said.
Sources, however said, party leadership was equally upset with the adamant posture taken by Chandy. Though the chief minister has succeeded in pushing his way through, he will be held responsible if the party suffers any setbacks in the poll, sources said.
“Since the final list is out we have only a single agenda now, to ensure continuation power in the state. In a democratic party it is natural to have differences of opinion. This will help strengthen the party,” the PCC chief said.