New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, March 17 (IANS) With the Congress' first list of 12 candidates for the Lok Sabha polls in Kerala omitting the name of veteran leader and five-time Lok Sabha MP K.V. Thomas, the Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party is keeping a close watch on the developments in the state.
The Congress, which is contesting 16 of Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha seats, on Saturday announced 12 of its candidates. While most of its 8 sitting MPs have been re-nominated, a shock exclusion was that of former Union Minister Thomas.
Thomas, the sitting member from Ernakulam, has been replaced by young legislator Hibi Eden.
BJP state President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, who is in Delhi finalising the list of the party candidates for Kerala, told the media on Sunday that the news doing the rounds that the saffron party was engaged in talks with Thomas was baseless.
"There's no doubt that Thomas is a leader with a stature. But the media reports saying that we are in touch with Thomas is baseless. All I can say is that we are closely watching the developments," Pillai told the media.
There was speculation that Thomas might be fielded by the BJP from the Ernakulam constituency, which has elected the veteran leader five times in the past, including in 2009 and 2014.
Following his omission from the candidates' list, a bitter Thomas not only blamed the state party leadership for ganging up to outsmart him, but also criticised the party high command.
"Is being 72 years my fault... I do not know what wrong I have done. No one had given any hint of what has happened now," said Thomas, considered close to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
To pacify Thomas, Congress leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala called on him at his Delhi residence on Sunday. He later said that Thomas was a senior leader of the party and that he will be taken care of by the Congress.
"Thomas will be with the party and his services will be utilised by the Congress," Chennithala said.
Meanwhile, according to top Congress sources, Thomas might be given the post of the United Democratic Front (UDF) convenor as the incumbent Benny Behanan has been asked to contest against sitting Lok Sabha MP and ace comedian Innocent from the Chalakudy constituency. Innocent was fielded by the CPI-M as an independent candidate in 2014.
The party high command is also looking at naming Thomas as the All India COngress Committee (AICC) General Secretary.