Kottayam: The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) will field M. Murali to contest the by-election to the state assembly from Chengannur. Murali, who has represented neighboring Mavelikkara in the state assembly continuously for 20 years, is the consensus choice among top Congress leaders, it is understood.
Ex-minister Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan has been entrusted with drawing up a strategy to retake Chengannur, which the Congress lost in the 2016 election. The party sees recapture of the seat as a prestige issue.
Youth leader P C Vishnunath, who lost the election in 2016 after two terms as MLA in Chengannur, has expressed his reluctance to contest, saying he needs to focus on his assigned task of overseeing the Congress strategy in Karnataka elections.
The Congress leadership feels that Murali has good chances of winning, especially because he could get the Nair votes which the Bharatiya Janata Party is eying. According to information, local Congress leaders have completed discussions on the candidate with ex-chief minister Oommen Chandy and Leader of the opposition Ramesh Chennithala. Senior leader A K Antony has also given his nod.
The Congress has information that CPM district secretary Saji Cherian would be the Left Front candidate. Murali's name was finalized after Cherian's name emerged. It is more or less certain that PS Sreedharan Pillai will be the BJP nominee again.
The UDF geared up after the BJP launched its campaign and entrusted the work to the RSS.
The UDF as well as the LDF are waiting to see what stance the Kerala Congress would adopt. Both fronts are eagerly awaiting to hear from K M Mani. His Kerala Congress (M) constituency committee in Chengannur decided recently to summon lower-level panels and enter the campaign.
However, it is unlikely that the party would field a candidate. There are conflicting views in the party on declaring political support to any of the fronts. Some leaders even talk of a possible conscience vote plan.