Former Union minister KV Thangkabalu on Thursday decided not to contest the Lok Sabha elections, topping a string of senior party leaders who are said to be reluctant to face the polls fearing defeat.
Thangkabalu, a former PCC president, is the second prominent leader after Union shipping minister GK Vasan, who also hails from Tamil Nadu, to openly opt out of the poll race after the Congress party was isolated in the state with no one willing to get into an alliance with it.
As the party's Central Election Committee meets in Delhi to finalise candidates, there have been reports that finance minister P Chidambaram, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, corporate affairs minister Sachin Pilot and Punjab Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa have expressed their disinclination to fight the elections.
None of the leaders have made any comments on these reports.
The leaders' reluctance is said to be on the basis of pre-poll projections forecasting a bad time for the party in many of the states, especially Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Punjab from where these leaders hail.
In the case of Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu, Union minister of state for commerce Sudarsana Natchiappan has reportedly thrown his hat in the ring seeking the seat for himself if Chidambaram is not contesting.
As a Congress candidate, Natchiappan had defeated Chidambaram in the 1999 elections and made way for the Finance Minister in 2004 at the intervention of the party high command.
Tewari, who was elected from Ludhiana, is reportedly eyeing Chandigarh which is now represented by former minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, against whose nephew the CBI has framed charges in a railway scam. Bansal had to quit the ministry last year in the wake of the scam.
A statement from Thangkabalu's office said he had not filed request with the state unit seeking ticket to contest Salem or any other seat and only three local leaders had nominated him.
Thangkabalu had quit as TNCC chief in 2011 owning moral responsibility for the party's loss in the Assembly election in which Congress could win only five seats out of the 63 it contest in alliance with DMK, the statement said.
"Thangkabalu had informed the Congress high command that he would not fight any general election then", it said.
He had conveyed his decision to senior Congress leaders Gulam Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik, who look after Tamil Nadu unit affairs, saying "new faces shall get chance".
Thangkabalu was humbled in Salem Lok Sabha constituency in 2009.