Tussle in Congress for Kerala Rajya Sabha seat

Thiruvananthapuram: A race is on within the Congress in Kerala on who will be nominated for a Rajya Sabha seat the party hopes to win in June.

The three Rajya Sabha members from the state who will retire from the Upper House include outgoing Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and veteran Congress leader P.J. Kurien, CPI-M leader C.P. Narayanan and Kerala Congress (Mani) nominee Joy Abraham.

Given the strength of the Congress-led opposition in the Kerala Assembly, the party can win just one seat. And it is for this one seat that there is an intense tussle.

Kurien, 77, is the forerunner and is most likely to be nominated on account of his closeness to the Gandhi family.

In Kerala, although the party is divided between former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala, the two factions are united in ensuring that Kurien does not get this seat on a platter.

“Kurien has had a long innings in Delhi and is a six-time Lok Sabha winner from 1980 to 1999. Since 2005 he has been in the Rajya Sabha and has lost connect with party workers. There are several others who have not got due rewards for their work. So let him step aside and contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election,” said a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be identified.

All along in the Congress in Kerala, seats and posts have been equally shared by various factions.

Chandy wants the seat to go to close aide Benny Behanan, who in 2016 failed to get his sitting Assembly seat.

Senior leader P.C. Chacko, who lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election, is also eyeing the seat.

M.M. Hassan, the present Kerala state president, wants to enter the Upper House too as he was made the state president only as a stop-gap arrangement after V.M. Sudheeran quit last year.

The women brigade in the Congress want the seat to go to a woman. Among the contenders are Shanimol Usman, Bindu Krishna and Padmaja Venugopal.

Senior leader A.K. Antony, who is expected to have the final say in the selection process, has a soft corner towards Venugopal, daughter of the late K. Karunakaran.