The Congress-led UDF in Kerala started a firefighting exercise on Monday to mollify protesting party leaders who were denied tickets for the upcoming state Assembly polls scheduled to be held on April 6. Party sources said senior leaders have been deputed to various districts, including Wayanad, Kannur and Palakkad, where party leaders and workers have come out openly against the leadership over denial of tickets to "deserving persons".
Soon after the candidates' list was announced on Sunday, infighting erupted in Irikkur Assembly constituency in Kannur over giving ticket to Sajeev Joseph of the "I" group in the state Congress, led by senior leader Ramesh Chennithala.
The seat had been held by KC Joseph, a senior leader associated with the "A" group led by Oommen Chandy, since long. Joseph, a veteran former minister, is not contesting the polls this time. The protesting "A" group wanted their leader Sony Sebastian as the party candidate in Irikkur, a Congress stronghold in north Kerala.
The two groups have been active in the state unit of Congress since the period of veteran leader and late K Karunakaran and senior leader A K Antony. Congress sources said the party has deputed KC Joseph and UDF convenor MM Hassan to Irikkur to placate the agitating "A" group workers and leaders.
The party strongman in Kannur, K Sudhakaran, MP, also expressed displeasure over the way Congress handled the Irikkur issue and hoped the KPCC will "rectify" its mistake.
Party sources said Chennithala intervened to manage the protesting Congress workers and leaders in Wayanad over the move to give Kalpetta Assembly seat to T Siddique who is not a native of the constituency.
The party leaders in Wayanad wanted a leader from the district to be chosen to fight from Kalpetta seat, they said.
Sources said senior party leader Oommen Chandy will leave for Palakkad on Tuesday to meet protesting leader AV Gopinath.
Gopinath, a former president of Palakkad DCC and one who enjoys grassroot level support, has alleged that he had been sidelined in the party for the past many years and said he would not take the matter lightly.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), an ally of the Congress, is also facing rebellion from within over fielding former Public Works Department Minister VK Ebrahim Kunju's son, VE Abdul Gafoor, in Kalamassery Assembly constituency in Ernakulam district.
The League had denied tickets to Kunju this time in view of his 'tainted image.' He was arrested by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) in connection with the Palarivattom flyover scam a few months ago. The League, however, gave the tickets to Kunju's son VE Abdul Gafoor.
The protesting League leaders said the tainted leader's son should not be given the ticket and have approached the IUML top brass, seeking withdrawal to Gafoor's candidature.
UDF convenor MM Hassan said, "everything will be managed in two days" and the Congress-led front would work in full swing to ensure its candidates in all constituencies.
"Such protests are not new to the Congress, a democratic party. Efforts are on to pacify those who were denied tickets," Hassan told PTI.
He, however, said the number of aspirants for the tickets were high this time and blamed the media "for injecting parliamentary delusion among young party leaders."
The Congress on Sunday released its first list of 86 candidates for the election, of the 92 it is contesting, fielding former Chief Minister Chandy from Puthuppally and Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Ramesh Chennithala from Haripad.
Vatakara MP K Muraleedharan, son of veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran, has been fielded from Thiruvananthapuram's Nemon constituency, the lone seat won by the BJP in the 2016 assembly polls.