After months of indecision, the United Democratic Front (UDF) has opted to roll the dice and put its faith in the legacy of K.M. Mani once again.
On the heels of a Central Election Commission (CEC) order allocating the electoral symbol of the Kerala Congress (M) to the party led by Jose K. Mani, the coalition has started informal discussions to explore the possibility of the faction’s return to the fold. Notwithstanding its strong protest over the neutral stance taken by the Mani group during the recent Assembly session, the Congress has commenced efforts to mobilise the opinion of the party cadre in this regard.
The move comes even as Mr. Mani, bolstered by the CEC order, intensified efforts to strengthen the party base by bringing back more leaders from the rival group led by P.J. Joseph. As part of it, the regional party here on Thursday started district-level leadership meetings to decide on the action against those who switched to the rival group. Elected representatives from various local bodies, who are unwilling to abide by the party line, have been warned to face proceedings under the anti-defection law.
The other day, it had lodged a police complaint against Saji Manjakkadambil, a leader of the Joseph faction, for `impersonating’ as president of the KC(M) Kottayam district unit.
According to a senior UDF leader, it was important for the UDF to keep the ‘official’ KC(M) with it considering the significant presence of the regional party in about 14 Assembly constituencies. “With the CEC order, Mr. Joseph has been practically stripped off from all the powers in the KC(M), though he has not been formally ousted from the party,” the leader said.
The move, as expected, has not gone down well with Mr. Joseph, who on Thursday acknowledged the need to apprise the UDF about the CEC order. “It appears a few leaders in the UDF are yet to get a clear picture on the CEC order,” he said, adding that “the Jose faction has gone out of the coalition on their own and there is no scope for a discussion on this within the coalition.”
Reiterating that an appeal would be filed against the CEC order, Mr. Joseph pointed that an order by the Idukki Munsiff Court preventing Mr. Mani from officiating as party chairman was still valid. “To say that Mr. Mani is the chairman of KC(M) amounts to contempt of court and hence legal action will be initiated against it,” said Mr. Joseph.
The Mani faction, on the other hand, reacted sharply to Mr. Joseph’s statement and warned stern legal action against any attempt to scandalise the CEC order. “Having claimed the authority over the party symbol during the crucial elections, including the Pala byelection, Mr. Joseph is now attempting to cover humiliation of loss,” said N. Jayaraj, MLA and a Mani loyalist.