The plans of the Congress to expand its presence in Central Travancore using the space vacated by the Kerala Congress (M) led by Jose K. Mani appears to have suffered a setback with the rival faction led by P.J. Joseph asserting its right over all seats that traditionally belonged to the regional party.
Talking to media persons on Saturday, Mr. Joseph said the seats where the Mani faction had contested during the previous local body elections now belonged to his party. The stand would be the same for the Assembly elections as well.
“Ideally, the seats vacated by the Mani group should be left to us as almost all leaders from the Mani group have joined our ranks. For, it will be the most suitable option to ensure a drubbing to the Mani group and the matter will be discussed in detail within the UDF,’’ he said.
Mr. Joseph unleashed a scathing attack on Mr. Mani and his close aid Roshy Augustine, MLA, terming the Mani group as a country boat lost at sea.
The statement assumes significance as reports have emerged that the Congress, as the leading partner of the UDF, looks set to take back seats, including Kanjirappally and Changanassery, from the KC(M) in view of a decline in its collective bargaining power.
The number of seats at its disposal will come down further in case of the Kerala Janapaksham led by P.C. George, MLA, and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an LDF ally that currently faces the prospects of losing Pala and Kuttanad to the Mani group, decide to align with the UDF.
Mr. Joseph, on the other hand, will be hard-pressed to ensure seats for at least a handful of leaders who switched from the various splinter groups of the regional party to join him recently. An array of leaders, including Johny Nellore, Francis George and Joseph M. Puthussery, have joined Mr. Joseph during his bid to consolidate the position as the biggest among the Kerala Congress groups.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Mani faction sought to dismiss the allegations raised by Mr. Joseph over the selection of candidates for the Pala byelection. In a statement, N. Jayaraj, MLA, said the confirmation by Mr. Joseph that he had send a letter to the Central Election Commission seeking not to issue the party symbol to the KC(M) candidate for the Pala byelection revealed the extent of a `political betrayal’ witnessed by the State.