With a faction led by Pala MLA Mani C. Kappan MLA slated to join the United Democratic Front (UDF), the State unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) appears to be on the verge of an irrevocable split ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections.
According to NCP sources, Mr. Kappan is expected to announce his decision to exit the Left Democratic Front (LDF) after a meeting with the NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, which is expected to take place on Thursday. Besides Mr. Kappan, NCP State president T.P. Peethambaran too has been called to New Delhi for the discussion.
The meeting in New Delhi comes amidst reports that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had expressed the LDF’s unwillingness to allot the Pala seat to the NCP and instead suggested Mr .Kappan to contest from Kuttanad. This message, according to the Kappan faction, was conveyed during a phone conversation between Mr. Vijayan and Mr. Patel the other day.
“While pressing the case for a coalition change, Mr. Kappan will also look to seize on the general sentiment against the high-handedness of the CPI(M) within the LDF. To back this, he will also highlight the denial of seats in Pala during the recent local body elections and the unilateral decision to hand over Pala to the Kerala Congress (M) among other things,” said a party leader.
The Left coalition, by forcing Mr. Kappan to contest from any Assembly segment outside Pala, is also conceding to the KC(M)’s claim of dominance in the seat despite its crushing defeat in the previous byelection.
“This was precisely why they went back on an earlier offer of a Rajya Sabha seat as the elevation of Mr. Kappan as MP would create another power centre in Pala,” he added.
In his plans to take the NCP to the Congress-led coalition, Mr. Kappan currently enjoys the support of a few leaders in the party State committee, besides the district committees of Kottayam and Alappuzha. The UDF, at the same time, has welcomed Mr. Kappan to its fold and intends to field him as a candidate in Pala.
Notwithstanding an offer from the Kerala Congress led by P.J. Joseph, Mr. Kappan is likely contest the election as UDF Independent.
The rival NCP faction backing Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran, meanwhile, is unyielding towards the demand for a coalition change. They also sought to dispel the rumours regarding a CPI(M) takeover of the Elathur Assembly seat, currently held by Mr. Saseendran.
“Mr. Kappan is almost certain to leave the NCP by the time the Statewide rally led by Ramesh Chennithala enters Kottayam on February 13 . The State president, however, is expected to stay back with the majority faction, the stance of which has been endorsed by Mr. Pawar,” said an NCP leader.