THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The Congress party in Kerala is confronted with a long list of hopefuls for the Chengannur assembly bypoll which it views as a game-changer in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Chengannur, in Alappuzha district, lost its incumbent CPI-M legislator K.K. Ramachandran Nair, who passed away in January following an illness.
Although the Election Commission is yet to give any indication of the by-election, the three rival fronts have already started zeroing down on their nominees.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist have almost zeroed down on theirs, the Congress is finding its selection a "tough proposition" as the list of hopefuls was getting longer by the day.
The top state leadership of the Congress is now having a tough time as this is one election which the party cannot afford to lose.
Those desirous of contesting the poll include Vijaya Kumar, whose name has surfaced every time elections have come around in the past two decades but who has yet to make it to the list.
This time, along with him, his daughter's name Jyothi Vijayakumar has also come up. She is a much sought-after translator from English to Malayalam in public party meetings addressed by former party chief Sonia Gandhi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi, whenever they visit the state.
The name of Jyothi gained strength when she was spotted at the state party headquarters, especially when former Defence Minister A.K. Antony visited.
Among others is four-time party legislator from neighbouring assembly constituency M. Murali, who represented Mavelikara constituency for four successive terms before losing in the 2011 polls from Kayamkulam constituency. He did not contest the 2016 polls.
Another two-time legislator K. Sivadasan Nair, who lost in the 2016 polls from another neighbouring constituency -- Pathanamthitta -- is also trying hard to get the nod.
There are also half a dozen party veterans who have been for long pushing for a seat and they include senior leader Abey Kuriakose besides several energetic youth Congress leaders who are also in the fray.
Over the years, the Chengannur seat has always gone to the nominee of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, as in Kerala all along, seats and posts are always divided on the basis of the factions in the party.
With just two factions, -- of Chandy and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala -- in operation in the state, whosoever gets Chandy's nod would become the candidate.
When Chandy was asked whether he has made up his mind about who the candidate was going to be, his reply came through in his characteristic smile and a wink. Implying that, in his party no quick decisions are taken.
"If there is going to be a consensus in the candidature, then there will be just one name that will be put up to the party high command and would get the instant approval....
"But if there is not going to be a consensus from here and a list of names is given, then the final call will be made by Rahul Gandhi with the concurrence of Antony," said another senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be identified.
State party President M.M. Hassan, however, is hopeful that they will be able to zero down on the nominee in a day or two.