Kerala polls: Coalitions not clear on top post

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SummaryWill 87-year-old chief minister VS Achuthanandan buck the cycle of CPI(M)-led LDF and the Congress controlled UDF alternating in power by clinching a back-to-back win in Kerala?

Will 87-year-old chief minister VS Achuthanandan buck the cycle of CPI(M)-led LDF and the Congress controlled UDF alternating in power by clinching a back-to-back win in Kerala?

Or will the topmost post go to Congress leader Oommen Chandy who led UDF in the last five years or will it be a dark horse like KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala?

These questions are dominating the political discourse in Kerala most in the run up to the April 13 polls for the 140 member assembly as campaign reached fever pitch by weekend.

But neither coalition has dared to come out with a firm answer, while each front claims the victory is it's. “Let the results come out. We will decide without any hitch who will be chief minister (or Opposition leader depending on the situation).” This has been the response from both sides of the political divide to the poser.

It was almost certain until a couple of months back that Chandy would be the lone contender for the high office if UDF romps home. But Chennithala's surprise entry as a contestant in his home turf Harippad has slightly blurred the certainty about the post-poll situation in UDF camp.

Still, indications from top Congress leaders are that Chandy is non-negotiable this time. Back in his pocket borough Puthupally in Kottayam district for the 10th consecutive time, Chandy had a brief term as CM in 2004-06 after resignation of A K Antony in the wake of the Congress's ignominous defeat in Lok Sabha polls that year. In the last five years, he has led the UDF as opposition leader and enjoys the confidence of all constituents. According to political observers, these factors are expected to work in his favour.

Though a skilful player who enjoys clout with the party's central leadership, Chennithala knows the ground reality and that is why he reiterates that he is not eyeing the top post.

“I won't mind sitting in the front bench, back bench or even side bench,” was his response when reporters asked him what would be his position after the polls.

Returning to legislative politics after two decades, Chennithala holds that his mandate is to ensure a thumping victory for the party. Considering the communal equations in Congress, Chennithala is likely to get a key cabinet berth if UDF gains power as he has the backing of some influential community organisations like Nair Service Society (NSS). CPI(M) leaders are far less enthusiastic to

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