Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress, which will be contesting from 16 of Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha seats, announced 12 of its candidates on Saturday. While former Union minister KV Thomas was excluded, eight sitting MPs have been re-nominated.

Thomas, the sitting MP of Ernakulam, has been replaced by legislator Hibi Eden.

The polling will be held on April 23, in the third of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections. The other four seats will be contested by other members of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) - the Indian Union Muslim League (two), and the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Kerala Congress-Mani (one each).

The Congress's first list, released in Delhi, includes sitting MPs Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram), Kodikunnil Suresh (Mavelikera) MK Raghavan (Kozhikode) and Anto Antony (Pathanamthitta).

The other candidates are Raj Mohan Unnithan (Kasargod), Dean Kuriakose (Idukki), K Sudhakaran (Kannur),  Remya Haridas (Alathur), Benny Behanan (Chalakudy), TN Pratapan (Thrissur), and VK Sreekantan (Palakkad).

The state party president Mullapally Ramachandran, who is the sitting MP from Vadakara, had already made it clear that he took over the state chief’s post on the condition that he will not seek re-election, while KC Venugopal, who represents Alappuzha, and has been appointed as the party general secretary, organization, has also said that he will not contest because of his added responsibilities.

MI Shahnawaz, the sitting member from Wayanad, had passed away last year.

Thomas, considered close to former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addressed the media in Delhi and said that the exclusion from the list of candidates is by far “the biggest shock” of his life.