By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Damned if it forges an alliance. Damned if it does not. That is the dilemma the Kerala Congress(Mani), which is currently ploughing a lonely furrow in Kerala politics, finds itself in.
Deepening the dilemma is the sharp division in the party on the issue of an alliance. There are two streams of thought in the party. While the faction owing allegiance to KC(M) chief K M Mani advocates a tie-up with the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Alliance, the pro-PJ Joseph group favours a return to the Congress-headed United Democratic Front (UDF), which it had left sometime back.
The differences came to the fore at the meeting of the party’s steering committee on Sunday. In view of the sharp divergence between the two factions, a decision on the issue has been deferred.
The outcome has belied expectations that the KC(M) would also announce its stance on the Chengannur assembly by-election. The KC(M) chief now says that a decision on whom to support in the by-election would be taken only after the Election Commission announces the poll schedule.
The saving grace for the KC(M) is that it is being wooed not only by the LDF and the UDF. Even the BJP is bent upon seeking a tie-up with the KC(M), to begin with, for the Chengannur by-[election. A delegation of state BJP leaders led by senior leader P K Krishnadas had met KM Mani, with the go-ahead signal from the BJP’s central leadership in this connection.
Not to be left behind, the UDF is also straining every nerve to ensure the return of the KC(M) to the UDF. Senior leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, P K Kunhalikutty, had called on Mani recently to persuade him to return to the UDF. But reports have it that Mani has not made any commitment.
Likewise, the CPI(M) has also been sending positive signals to Mani. The CPI(M) has intensified the efforts of late in view of the proximity of the Chengannur by-election. The State Committee of the CPI(M), which concluded the other day, made the right noises on the issue of having an understanding with Mani.
All the three fronts are busy wooing Mani because the KC(M) has a sizable presence in the constituency, which the CPI(M) had wrested from the Congress in the last assembly elections. The by-election has been necessitated by the death of CPI(M) MLA K K Ramachandran Nair.
Retaining the seat is a matter of prestige for the CPI(M). Hence its redoubled efforts to seek Mani’s support despite the CPI’s vehement opposition to the move. The CPI is of the considered view that joining hands with ‘’tainted’ leaders like Mani would only tarnish the image of the LDF and weaken its battle against corruption.
The CPI(M)’’s confidence on retaining the Chengannur seat has suffered a dent with the Kerala Church Bishops Council (KCBC) voicing its strong opposition to the LDF Government’s decision to reopen closed bars in the state. The KCBC says this is in violation of the LDF’s promise in its manifesto that bars would not be reopened. Since the Christian community has a significant presence in the Chengannur constituency, the support of KC(M) is a must for the CPI(M) to ensure the party candidate’s victory.
But the KC(M) is in no position to openly declare its stance on support. Mani is, however, under severe pressure to declare the party’s stance soon.
The long-term goal of the KC-M chief is to ensure the re-election of his son Jose K Mani, the MP from Kottyam Lok Sabha constituency. Although top Congress leaders favour Mani’s return to the UDF, the Kottayam unit of that party is against it. The resentment of the kottayam unit has made the KC(M) wary. In view of its hostility, the KC(M) feels the chances of Jose winning again from Kottayam are not that good.
In view of the ground reality, the KC(M) feels that the chances of Jose retaining the seat are much better if the party joins hands with the CPI(M)-led LDF. Either way, Mani will have to take a decision sooner than later. But the seasoned politician knows that it is easier said than done. Hence the vacillation on the issue and frequent postponements of a decision, which will have a crucial bearing on the KC(M)’s future. (IPA Service)