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‘Safer’ seat for 2G chief

Thiruvananthapuram, March 13: The Congress high command today intervened to ensure that 2G panel chief P.C. Chacko, who feared a backlash in his faction-ridden constituency in Kerala, is shifted to a “safer” seat in the neighbourhood.

Shashi Tharoor, the most high-profile MP from Kerala, retains his seat in the capital, Thiruvananthapuram.

Chacko was elected in 2009 from central Kerala’s Thrissur, considered the cultural capital of the state. But he will now shift to the next-door Chalakkudy where the state unit of the Congress had decided to renominate sitting MP K.P. Dhanapalan.

Dhanapalan was summoned to New Delhi today where the party central election committee was meeting to clear names submitted by the state screening committee. The discussions went on for hours, at the end of which Dhanapalan agreed to abide by the high command’s instructions.

Speaking to TV channels after the meeting, Dhanapalan did not hide his disenchantment. “Senior leaders wanted me to contest from Thrissur. But I told them it was in Chalakkudy where I had invested my time and efforts and would not even think of leaving the place. But they finally impressed upon me that if I contested from Thrissur, the party will be able to win both seats and I agreed,” he said.

Dhanapalan also did not forget to take a dig at Chacko, saying “not just Chacko, any (Congress) candidate will win easily from Chalakkudi.”

With Chacko’s seat cleared, the Congress announced its first list of 15 candidates from the state late in the evening.

Junior central ministers Mullappally Ramachandran, K.V. Thomas and K.C. Venugopal will contest from their sitting seats.

The Congress, however, denied a second chance to the Idukki MP, P.T. Thomas who had fallen out with the Church over the implementation of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan panel report for protection of the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats.

Sources said the high command intervened after Chacko put pressure on the central leadership, conveying that he would rather not contest than face the heat in Thrissur.

Chacko had been facing the ire in Thrissur from the Congress “I” faction, which is represented by state home minister Ramesh Chennithala.

The “I” group — which traces its influence in Thrissur back to the days of the late stalwart K. Karunakaran —had always considered the district its strong seat. Karunakaran, an eventual loyalist of Indira Gandhi after whom the “I” group is named, had arrived in Thrissur at the age of 13. He later joined the freedom movement and went on to build an eventful political career.

Chacko is considered a nominee of the “A” group — originally conceived by current defence minister A.K. Antony to take on Indira Gandhi and Karunakaran in the aftermath of the Emergency, but now represented by chief minister Oommen Chandy.

Chacko will now take on CPM-backed Independent and popular actor V.T. Innocent. Known for his satirical roles, Innocent is also the president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artist’s (AMMA).