When luck played dice with the candidates

Sudden change in reserved seats leaves many nominees frustrated

N.C. Cherian had wrapped up multiple rounds of door-to-door campaign and was just waiting to file his nomination as the candidate from division 17 of the Kothamangalam Municipality when cold water was poured over his months-long efforts.

A judicial intervention with regard to successive reservation of wards meant that a draw of lot had to be held afresh for the allocation of reservation in all but three out of the 31 divisions of the municipality. It saw division 17, which was originally a general division getting reserved for Scheduled Caste, leaving Mr. Cherian, State Committee member of the Jose K. Mani faction of Kerala Congress, out in the cold.

“I had started work four months ago, painstakingly got the voters’ list updated, and had even completed four rounds of door-to-door campaigning. I was all but assured of a victory with a big majority as in 2010 when the reshuffle forced me to shift to division 18 where I will have to start work from scratch,” he said. Not having an eligible SC candidate for division 17, the party had to bring in a replacement for Mr. Cherian from outside.

The original allocation had to be quashed following a High Court verdict in favour of Jose Varghese, a lawyer and another member of the Jose K. Mani faction of the Kerala Congress, on a petition filed against the reservation of division 2, from where he had unsuccessfully contested in the past, for three successive terms — twice for women and then for SC.

“My contention was that back-to-back reservation of the division amounted to a denial of natural justice to members of the general category by depriving them of their right to contest,” said Mr. Varghese who is now set to contest from the division. Following this, division 2 was brought under the general category so as divisions 18 and 25, which were reserved twice leaving them out of the fresh draw of lot.

The reallocation of divisions had similarly thrown a spanner in the works of numerous candidates and created a headache for party honchos.

“It beset party leaderships with the unenviable task of dealing with disgruntled candidates and reworking a balanced seat allocation among alliance partners besides mollycoddling rebel candidates left in its wake,” said A.G. George, Congress district general secretary and former municipal chairman who himself had to shift from division 20 to 19.

Prince Varkey, a Congress candidate originally from division 7, had to swap seats with party colleague Sindhu Jijo after division 4, originally reserved for women from where she was fielded, fell under the general category in the reallocation.

“Fortunately, I was yet to start the campaign and hence, the shift was painless,” said Mr. Varkey.

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