The CPI (M), that heads the Left Democratic Front (LDF), will kick start its campaign for the Lok Sabha elections with the Kerala Samrakshana Jathas (Kerala Protection Rallies) that will begin on February 14.
While dividing seats between the allies will be fairly easy for the coalition, finding the right opponent for Shashi Tharoor of the Congress in Thiruvananthapuram, will be a tough challenge. Thiruvananthapuram has been traditionally held by the CPI, the second largest party in the ruling coalition.
Several names from the Left as well as the BJP have been floating around as to who will stand in opposition to Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram â€“ right from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to CPI leader Annie Raja to actor Mohanlal.
Since most protests against womenâ€™s entry into Sabarimala have been centred around Thiruvananthapuram, in a bid to woo women voters, names of women leaders are being contemplated in a constituency where prominent political fronts have rarely fielded a female candidate.
The CPI lost the Thiruvananthapuram constituency to Congress in the last two elections after Tharoor entered fray. If not Annie Raja, another candidate who has a fairly good chance against Tharoor is former state minister Binoy Viswam. Meanwhile another senior leader of the CPI, Pannian Raveendran, who won the constituency in 2004 elections, has decided not to contest in the upcoming elections.
In Thiruvananthapuram the decisive votes are that of Nadar and Nair communities. In political circles, there is even a joke that the fight in Thiruvananthapuram could be one between Nairs - if Tharoor, Mohanalal or Suresh Gopi are fielded by parties and that even the Left may opt for a Nair candidate.
"If Binoy Viswam, who is currently a Rajya Sabha MP, won't come into the picture, it is likely that the CPI (M) will give the seat to its ally, Janata Dal (S) and give CPI another seat instead of this one. If JD (S) gets the ticket, it is likely that Neelalohithadasan Nadar will contest the elections to woo Nadar votes in the constituency," a political analyst said. In the 2014 elections JD (S) got the Kottayam seat.
Neelan, as he is known, is a former minister in the LDF government. Although he was accused of sexual harassment by two women IAS officers when he was a minister, it seems the party may conveniently forget it.
Neelan, when he was a young Congress leader, defeated CPI's stalwart MN Govindan Nair aka MN in 1980. It was Congress's undisputed leader K Karunakaran's vision to field a young candidate against a political giant to grab the Nadar votes which formed the majority of the vote bank in the constituency.
After Neelan parted ways with the Congress, Karunakaran - a politician with rare farsightedness - fielded A Charles. Charles belonged to the Christian Nadar community, who are more in number than the Hindu Nadars.
But the constituency also has had the history of defeating caste equations when the fight was really political. Mass leader of the CPI, K V Surendranath defeated A Charles in 1996, while PK Vasudevan Nair defeated Congress's VS Sivakumar in 2004.
However, CPI State Secretary Kanam Rajendran told TNM that the party has no confusion over deciding the candidate. "The decision will be taken in the first week of March by the National Executive of the CPI. We are considering several candidates, and the names haven't been finalised yet," he said.
Ernakulam is another constituency that keeps eluding the Left. The CPI (M) usually fields an independent candidate from Ernakulam. It is learnt that the party will go for an independent candidate for Chalakudy constituency as well. CPI (M) backed actor Innocent in 2014 in the constituency and he won with a comfortable margin.
In Kollam, the party is most likely to field its district secretary KN Balagopal. In Alathur, the two-time MP PK Biju may not be given a ticket consecutively for the third time. In Palakkad, chances is slim for the incumbent MP MB Rajesh to get one another shot, as the local leadership of the party is unhappy with his 'neutral' (however correct) stand on the sexual harassment complaint by a woman colleague against MLA PK Sasi. If not MB Rajesh, senior leader and former MP NN Krishnadas is likely to be chosen.
The constituencies that have been allotted to the CPI in LDF are Mavelikkara, Thrissur and Wayanad.
In Mavelikara, Punnala Sreekumar, a Dalit leader who heads Kerala Pulayar Mahasabha, is likely to be the LDFâ€™s candidate. "In Attingal chances are high for current MP A Sampath or for DYFI State Secretary AA Rahim. In Alappuzha, the party could choose MA Baby, though he had said that he won't contest the elections. Even Finance Minister Thomas Issacâ€™s name is doing the rounds. In the case the party decides to field a woman candidate, it is likely to be former MP, CS Sujatha," a source said.
There will be Left Democratic Front meeting on February 11, which is when the decision on seat allocation for allies is likely to be taken. The CPI State Council meeting will take place the next day, on February 12.