By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The internecine rift in the Kerala Congress (M) has cast an ominous shadow on the prospects of the United Democratic Front(UDF) candidate in the by-election to the prestigious Pala assembly seat.
The by-election has been caused by the passing away of KC(M) chairman K M Mani in April this year.
If the KC(M) finds itself in a sorry plight in the run-up to the b y-election scheduled to be held on September 23, it has none but itself to blame. In their battle for getting the Pala seat, the factions led by working chairman P J Joseph and Mani’s son Jose K. Mani have inflicted incalculable damage to the KC(M).
The greater share of the blame must, however, be borne by the Jose faction, which has tried, at every available opportunity, to humiliate Joseph. The genesis of the trouble can be traced to the refusal of the Jose faction to allow Joseph to contest for the Kottayam Lok Sabha seat, which had fallen vacant following the resignation of Kottayam MP Jose K Mani to fight for the Rajya Sabha. Joseph would have agreed to cease fire had he been made at least the parliamentary party leader. But Jose, who was bent upon becoming chairman of the party, refused to oblige. That is the reason why the battle for Pala candidate has become acrimonious.
The Jose faction’s game-plan to outsmart Joseph failed miserably as Joseph refused to give him the party symbol, two leaves. Joseph alone can allot the party symbol by virtue of his being the working chairman as per the party’s constitution.
Interestingly, Joseph was ready to give the symbol to Jose’s candidate on one condition: that he be recognised as the working chairman. But Jose would not agree.
Ultimately, Jose’s candidate’s nomination was rejected as he did not have the party symbol. But since he had filed another nomination as an independent candidate backed b y the UDF, he managed to remain in the fray.
Meanwhile, Joseph sprang an ugly last-minute surprise by fielding his own man. This took both the Jose faction and the UDF leaders by surprise. Whatever his reason to put up his own candidate, Joseph has since directed him to withdraw his nomination after scrutiny.
The irony of it all is that there is no KC(M) candidate in the fray! The candidate fielded b y the Jose faction is now fighting as an independent supported by the UDF – a bitter pill to swallow for the Jose faction.
Needless to say, the discomfiture in the UDF and KC(M) camp is the delight of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). The morale in the LDF camp is sky-high in the wake of the ugly infighting in the KC(M) and the resultant confusion it has created.
LDF candidate Mani C Kappan, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a con stituent of the LDF, is a picture of confidence. Kappan, who lost to KM Mani a number of times in the past, says Pala will spring a big surprise this time by opting for the LDF candidate, ending the over 50-year-old monopoly of the KC(M ).
Kappan has every reason to feel confident. Three factors which have hitherto helped the KC(M) to win the seat are no more there. KM Mani is no more. The KC(M) has failed to field its candidate. And last but not the least, the UDF candidate does not enjoy the benefit of the KC(M) symbol, two leaves. This is bound to create confusion among the traditional KC(M) voters who are familiar only with the two leaves symbol. This will be one of the factors, which Kappan feels, will tilt the balance in the LDF’s favour.
At the end of the day, there is no denying the fact that the KC(M) rift and the resultant disunity in the UDF will have a crucial bearing on the result. In his last election, Mani had romped home with only a slender majority of over 4,700 votes. The narrow gap will not only be bridged but the LDF will go on to wrest the seat from the UDF this time around, claim the LDF leaders. (IPA Service)