Mani says it’s first sign of victory

KOTTAYAM The Jose K. Mani faction of the Kerala Congress (M) sees the Kerala High Court verdict upholding an order of the Central Election Commission (CEC) allocating the party’s election symbol ‘two leaves’ to it as the first sign of victory for the faction and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the coming local body elections.

The order comes close on the heels of the State Election Commission (SEC) freezing the symbol ahead of the polls and allotting the P.J. Joseph and the Mani factions `chenda’ (drum) and table fan as their respective symbols.

Mr. Mani said here on Friday that the KC(M) and `two leaves’ were indeed inextricable. ‘Two leaves’ holds a special place in the minds of voters. ‘‘By claiming the symbol, their [Joseph faction] attempt was to rob us of the legacy of K.M. Mani,” he added.

Asked if the party would be able to use the symbol in the present elections, Mr. Mani hoped the SEC would be receiving the court order by November 23, the last day for withdrawal of nominations. ‘‘The SEC has already made it clear that the decision to freeze the symbol would be subject to the court order”, he said, warning the rival faction against ‘misusing’ the name Kerala Congress (M).

Joseph to move court

Meanwhile, Mr. Joseph said an appeal would be filed before a Division Bench of the High Court against the order . ‘‘This order will have no impact on the local body elections. We hope to obtain a stay from the Division Bench by then,’’ he added.

The SEC earlier this week had asked candidates of both factions to submit two sets of nominations, one with the symbol ‘two leaves’ and the other with the new symbol allotted, as it was anticipating the court judgment before November 23.

In August, the CEC, in an order passed with a 2:1 majority, had allotted the symbol to the Mani faction as it ‘‘enjoyed majority support, both among the legislative as well as the organisational wing of the party’’. Mr. Joseph, however, challenged the decision in the High Court and obtained a stay on it.

The dispute over the symbol had its origin in the byelection for the Pala Assembly seat in September 2019. Mr. Joseph had then refused to allocate the symbol to Jose Tom Pulikkunnel, a nominee of the Mani group. Following this, Mr. Pulikkunnel had to contest as an Independent candidate of the United Democratic Front with the the symbol ‘pineapple’. The Mani and Joseph factions were in the UDF then.

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