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UDF talks on seat-sharing inconclusive

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 25. The UDF Liaison Committee today failed to arrive at a consensus over the distribution of seats among the coalition partners for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. Bilateral discussions would be held with the various UDF constituents in the coming two days and a final decision would be announced on February 28.

With several of the coalition parties demanding seats, the UDF leadership deferred a decision today, giving more time to the respective parties to discuss the Congress demand for 17 seats given its national imperatives. The UDF meeting however cleared the two seats - Ponnani and Manjeri - which the IUML would contest.

Addressing a press conference this evening, the UDF convener, Oommen Chandy, expressed the hope that the UDF constituents would appreciate the national imperatives of the Congress, even though each one of them was qualified and eligible to demand and contest the Lok Sabha elections. The constituents have been asked to discuss the issue and inform him about their decision before February 28, he said.

The discussions were held at two levels, jointly and bilaterally. The 20 Lok Sabha seats, two Rajya Sabha seats that are falling vacant soon and the Wadakkancherry Assembly seat were discussed as a package. It was decided that the Congress would contest the Wadakkancherry seat. The two Rajya Sabha seats, which the UDF could win given its strength in the Assembly, would be shared between the Congress and IUML.

The next UDF meeting would be held on March 1. The UDF meeting also discussed the liquor policy for the coming year. It appointed a subcommittee, with the Excise Minister, K. V. Thomas, as convener. The ten-member committee has K. R. Gauri, Arayadan Mohammed, Babu Divakaran, Suresh Babu, Joy Abraham, K. B. Ganesh Kumar, K. P. Sankaradas, Johnny Nellore, and M. K. Kannan as members.

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