Tussle in Kerala for Rajya Sabha seat

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 Congress in Kerala is facing a revolt after giving up a Rajya Sabha seat to the Kerala Congress (Mani), a regional ally that had left it two years ago amid a rift over a corruption scam.

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.

The decision means Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien will not get another term. But for the Congress, which wants to win over as many allies as it can ahead of the 2019 general election, it is collateral damage.

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. Several party leaders, including young legislators and a former state Congress chief, have strongly objected to the party’s decision.

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.

“This is an abject surrender by the Congress,” Mr Kurien has reportedly said, blaming senior party leaders and accusing them of misleading Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress has been facing a tussle over the seat for weeks. Younger lawmakers had posted on social media that Mr Kurien, a veteran Congress leader who has been Rajya Sabha deputy chairman since August 2012, should step aside.

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.

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