The friction in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over the Pala Assembly seat seems to have added an unbidden dimension to Left Democratic Front’s (LDF) ‘exploratory’ seat-sharing talks that commenced here on Thursday.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had indicated that the NCP, like the CPI(M) and other older constituents, should make sacrifices to hold on to new allies. CPI State secretary Kanam Rajendran also concurred.
However, NCP leader Mani C. Kappan appeared unshakeable from his hardline stance on Pala. The incumbent Pala legislator had indicated that he was unwilling to renounce the “hard-won” seat to accommodate Jose. K. Mani of the Kerala Congress (M).
Mr. Kappan and NCP State president T.P. Peethambaran are in New Delhi. The NCP’s future as a cohesive organisation in the LDF seemed to hinge heavily on national president Sharad Pawar’s impending decision on whether or not to “sacrifice” Pala seat at the altar of coalition politics.
The Congress has hurried to exploit the fissures in the NCP. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala welcomed Mr. Kappan to the Congress.
They viewed the outreach as a counterstroke to Mr. Jose’s shift of allegiance to the LDF. Mr. Kappan was yet to lay his cards on the table. He said he was awaiting Mr. Pawar’s decision.
A CPI(M) insider said Mr. Kappan’s exit was unlikely to have a crippling effect on the NCP. Much of the NCP’s rank and file in Kottayam, as in other districts, had integrated well into the LDF. NCP workers saw no political cause to desert the coalition.
The drumbeats of dissension in the NCP got shriller with Mr. Jose staking a claim for Pala after the local body polls. The KC(M) gambit had sowed discord in the NCP, with Kappan and Saseendran factions adopting divergent views on the Pala question.
Both groups had reportedly met separately and also tested the water with influential district and State-level leaders.