The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Kerala appeared to be on the cusp of a split. A group of NCP State leaders have petitioned the national leadership against Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran for holding a faction meeting.
Simultaneously, efforts are on in the Left Democratic Front (LDF) to prevent the NCP dispute over the proposal to cede the Pala seat to Jose K. Mani of the Kerala Congress (M) from boiling over.
The incumbent Pala legislator Mani C. Kappan was loath to hand over the constituency to Mr. Mani. In contrast, Mr. Saseendran, another veteran NCP leader, was “sympathetic” to Mr. Mani’s demand.
Mr. Saseendran’s stance reportedly has the imprimatur of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] leadership. The Saseendran “faction” felt an accommodation with Mr. Mani would perhaps bring rich dividends for the NCP, including a Rajya Sabha seat, that would enhance the party’s national profile.
NCP State general secretary Mathews George and NCP national secretary N.A. Muhammad Kutty had held a closed-door meeting with Mr. Saseendran in mid-January.
NCP State president T. P. Peethambaran, who is averse to the idea of yielding the Pala seat to Mr. Mani, was absent. Mr. Kappan has reportedly not taken kindly to the “secret” conclave. His supporters have termed it an insurrection against the NCP State leadership and petitioned party president Sharad Pawar.
They felt Mr. Saseendran was eager to please the CPI(M) and had capitulated to its demands. The CPI(M) had turned increasingly “predatory” and could stake a claim to Elathur constituency currently held by Mr. Saseendran.
The LDF is reportedly mindful that a “rebellious Kappan” in Pala could impede its plan for a sweep in Christian politics dominated central Kerala. The UDF could rally around Mr. Kappan to punish Mr. Mani for disavowing the Opposition and jumping ship to join the LDF.
Moreover, the optics of a split in the NCP could dent the LDF’s image as a cohesive political front in some measure. An LDF meeting here on January 27 might weigh the NCP issue.