New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress high command on Sunday agreed to the demands of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and gave its nod to five candidates for the assembly polls though their selection was opposed tooth and nail by state party chief V.M. Sudheeran.
The party high command agreed to the five names after almost a week of numerous rounds of talks at various levels.
Since the time the state’s top leadership reached Delhi on March 27, Sudheeran had been strongly opposing the re-nomination of Excise Minister K. Babu, who is facing allegations in the bar scam, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, who is embroiled in a row over land transfer, Culture Minister K.C. Joseph, who has been a legislator since 1982, Benny Behanan for allegedly having links with solar panel scam accused, and five-time legislator and former minister Dominic Presentation.
Even after two rounds of talks with party president Sonia Gandhi, Chandy stood his ground and said if any of the five is dropped, he will not contest the polls.
Sources said former defence minister A.K. Antony, who is also a former chief minister of Kerala, stepped in on Sunday morning and persuaded both party vice president Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi to allow Chandy the freedom.
Sudheeran, before returning to Kerala on Sunday, told reporters in Delhi that he has assured the party high command that he will not put pressure on it for the selection of candidates.
“I have assured the high command, I will not stand in the way of whatever decisions they take. It was not with any personal grudge, that I opposed a few names,” said Sudheeran.
Chandy also left for Kerala on Sunday. After arriving in Kochi, he visited his home turf Puthupally.
Asked by the media if he was happy that he was able to “pressurise” the party high command, he said: “All what you are hearing in the news is baseless.”
“No one can ever get the better of our high command. All what you hear is not true. We all said what we had to say and the final decision would be that of the high command,” Chandy told reporters in Puthupally.
The three top leaders of the party from Kerala — Chandy, Sudheeran and state Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala — have been in Delhi for over a week to finalise the list of candidates for the 82 constituencies the party is contesting.
According to sources, the high command wanted to please both Chandy and Sudheeran, but the chief minister stuck to his stand.
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A worried Indian Union Muslim League — the second biggest ally in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) — meanwhile got in touch with the Congress high command and expressed apprehension that if Chandy is not going to lead the UDF, things could go haywire.
Chandy had informed the national leadership that he was prepared to step down and aside, and anyone else could lead the party to the polls. He, however, said he will campaign in all the 140 assembly constituencies.
Polls for the 140-member Kerala assembly will be held on May 16.