NCP workers celebrating victory in Pala
NCP workers celebrating victory in Pala

Will Factionalism Worsen In Kerala Congress (M)?

The bypoll debacle in Pala is not going to make matters any better for the splintered party

Rejimon Kuttapan

Rejimon Kuttapan

Jose K Mani was not ready to obey the party constitution and we had asked for a winnable candidate, says PJ Joseph signalling that factionalism is not going to end.

With the bypoll debacle in Pala Assembly constituency today, political leaders and observers claim that factionalism will worsen further in Kerala Congress (Mani), however, they will last as a party in Kerala’s political arena for 10 more years.

“This defeat is the start of Kerala Congress (Mani) party’s fall as their factionalism will worsen further in the coming days,” Kanam Rajendran, State Secretary of the Communist Party of India said.

Marking an end to the 54-year-long Kerala Congress (Mani)’s dominance in Pala Assembly constituency in Kerala, Mani C Kappan, a candidate from Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, won the bypoll with a margin of 2943 votes on Friday, defeating Jose Tom from KC (M).

NCP is a coalition party with the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala.

Mani C Kappan said that his victory is a freedom from 54-year-long political slavery for Pala voters. “Pala will now see development,” Mani C Kappan added.

For the last five decades, late KM Mani, the founder-chief of the Kerala Congress (Mani) had represented Pala in the Kerala Assembly, holding the record for the longest serving legislator in the country.

KM Mani was elected to Kerala Legislative Assembly for the first time in 1965 from Pala. And since then, he had won all the 12 elections that followed in 1967, 1970, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.

And Mani’s death on 09 April 2019, necessitated the bypoll in Pala.

Even while, Jose K Mani, MP and son of late KM Mani, has said that they will stand united, a fight over who will be the Kerala Congress (M) party chairman between PJ Joseph, a MLA and working chairman of the party, and Jose K Mani, had dampened the chances of their candidate Jose Tom.

Due to factionalism, the party’s candidate did not have the Two Leaves party symbol in this bypoll.

Citing Kerala Congress (M) party constitution norms, PJ Joseph had denied allotment of the party symbol to Jose Tom.

Jose Tom had to contest the election with Pineapple as symbol and campaign using KM Mani’s posters.

However, while talking to media at around 2:30 pm following the poll debacle, citing differences between Jose K Mani, PJ Joseph signalled that the factionalism is not going to end soon.

“Jose K Mani was not ready to obey the party constitution. We had asked for a winnable candidate. But it didn’t happen from Jose K Mani’s side. The chosen candidate was a controversial character. And Jose K Mani declared himself as the chairman of party,” Joseph said adding that Jose K Mani faction was overconfident in winning an election even without the party’s official symbol.

“I had asked for the post of party chairman. As per party constitution, in the absence of chairman, working chairman will be the chairman. If Jose K Mani had given a letter to us stating that he agrees with my being chairman, then I would have given him the party symbol,” Joseph said adding that Jose K Mani is an “immature person”.

Sajan Thoduka, Kerala Congress (M) Youth Front, who is siding with Jose K Mani faction, said that Joseph faction didn’t work whole-heartedly during the polls. “Joseph’s faction was not sincere,” Sajan said.

Meanwhile, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappally Ramachandran said that the defeat is only because voters were irritated with the factionalism in Kerala Congress (Mani). “So the voters voted for NCP candidate,” he said.

K Muraleedharan, MP and senior Indian National Congress leader, said that both PJ Joseph and Jose K Mani factions had locked horns publicly even after elections were declared.

“People were watching their infighting on televisions. We, Congress leaders, had worked sincerely. But they didn’t,” Muraleedharan added.

Meanwhile, Roy Mathew, a political observer, told The Lede that the factionalism in Kerala Congress (M) will worsen further, however, and the party will exist for a 10 more years. “Pala is Kerala’s Vatican. There would be a priest or nun in every house there. And the traditional voters are churchgoers. The church has a big say among the believers. The church controls and supports Kerala Congress (Mani).

Through this, they will have a minister either in Kerala government or a few MPs in parliament. Without that, the church can’t survive. So Kerala Congress (Mani) factionalism may worsen but will exist in Kerala’s political scenario for a few more years,” Roy said.

Meanwhile the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had secured 25,000 votes in 2016 polls, had to be satisfied with just 18,044 votes, signalling a dent in the saffron party’s voteshare.

Both the Left Democratic Front and United Democratic Front camps alleged that BJP votes flowed towards the other.

At around 2 pm, Sitaram Yechury, the CPIM General Secretary, posted on Facebook – “Congratulations, Pala! For the first time in 54 years, we are humbled and grateful that the people have reposed their trust in the Left here. #Pala #Kerala.”

The Lede