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Speaker front-runner for Kerala CM's post
George Iype in Kochi | August 30, 2004 12:31 IST
Last Updated: August 30, 2004 13:18 IST
A team of senior Congress leaders from New Delhi who landed in Kerala on Monday has plunged into discussions with the party's legislators to pick up a successor to Chief Minister A K Antony who resigned on Sunday.
The team comprises All India Congress Committee general secretary Ahmed Patel, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress Working Committee member Margaret Alva.
Though a number of party leaders have queued up before the party high command, the mantle is most likely to fall on Speaker Vakkom Purushothaman. Antony himself is said to have suggested Purushothaman's name.
The other strong candidate is Antony's own close friend and United Democratic Front convener Oommen Chandy. But Chandy is reportedly disinclined to take up the reins at this juncture.
The high command's main grouse against Antony is that he could not effectively counter the Left parties and a section of Congress leaders, which had begun working against its own government. In contrast, Purushothaman has often come out with strong and provocative statements against the opposition and also Congress dissidents.
But most UDF legislators and the coalition's constituents, like the Muslim League, favour Chandy, as he maintains cordial relations with all. Hence, it appears he is not entirely out of the picture.
Other names doing the rounds are those of senior leaders Vayalar Ravi and Ramesh Chennithala, state Congress chief Thennala Balakrishna Pillai and a former chief P P Thankachan.
"The next chief minister will be chosen by the party high command in consultation with all the MLAs. He will be selected by consensus. We do not expect any problems in electing the new chief minister," Pillai told rediff.com on Monday morning.
Party officials said a name would emerge on Monday night, during the Congress Legislative Party meeting scheduled for 7.30pm Monday.
Antony bowed out of office on Sunday owning moral responsibility for the shock defeat of the Congress in Kerala in the Lok Sabha polls. The other reasons were his government's poor track record in the last three years and bitter infighting within the party.
More reports from Kerala