On Monday, June 29, the Kerala Congress (Mani)- KC(M) faction, led by Jose K Mani, was ousted from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in connection with the tussle over the Kottayam district panchayat chief post. The ouster follows the faction's refusal to honour an agreement made in public with the coalition front over sharing the post.
As per the agreement, the Jose faction was allowed to hold the post for six months and the faction led by Kerala Congress chairman P J Joseph for the remaining six months.
"But, even after eight months, the Jose faction refused to honour the agreement. Besides, the faction openly declared that the pact was not valid," UDF convenor Benny Behanan told reporters.
The decision on the ouster was taken at a high- level meeting of the front here, and after a discussion by the leaders with all the other allies in the front, Behanan said, adding that the Jose-led faction does not deserve to continue in the front as the faction refused to honour the pact. The faction would not be invited for any further UDF meetings and other decisions would be decided in the online meeting of UDF on July 1.
Slamming the UDF decision, Jose K Mani alleged that "political injustice" has been meted out to his faction. Referring to the contribution made by his late father K M Mani in building the UDF in the state 38 years ago, the Rajya Sabha MP said the coalition has brushed aside the politics of his father and he was not ready to compromise on the party's self-respect.
Addressing a press conference in Kottayam, Jose said the state leaders of his faction will meet on Tuesday to discuss the future course of action. The Jose faction claimed the decision was taken in a biased manner, and that the Joseph faction was behind pressurising the UDF leadership. Roshy Augustine, MLA, a leader of Jose faction, said they were "deeply hurt" by the UDF decision.
At the current assembly, KC(M) has five MLAs. Of these, three are said to be with Joseph group and rest are with Jose. Back in November 2019, Roshy Augustine, one of the MLAs close to junior Mani, had said, "Now, the two factions of the party have formed their own committees at all levels. Moreover, the leaders who are with Joseph owe their political growth to Mani Sir. It's sad for all, the way things have now panned out. We will wait."
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Joseph who was the leader of Kerala Congress (J) merged his party with KC(M) in 2010. But the first signs of rift appeared when Mani announced the name of the candidate for 2019 Lok Sabha election for the lone seat which the party has.
The inner party conflicts in KC(M) had begun shortly after the demise of KM Mani. Mani- one of prominent leaders in Kerala politics- had died in April 2019 and he remained as the chairman of the party since its formation in 1976. Following the demise of the founder and tallest leader of the party, In May 2019, a clash had been erupted in the party regarding the position of legislative party leader in Kerala Assembly.
Back then, the Joseph group had submitted a letter to Kerala Legislative Assembly speaker requesting to provide a top position to PJ Joseph. Soon after this, the Mani group had also submitted a counter request to Speaker. As the internal conflicts continued, in November 2019, PJ Joseph was elected as the parliamentary leader of KC(M). The fight between Jose K Mani and PJ Joseph to grab control of KC(M) was even taken to court. The situation turned further worse for Jose when the court had finally refused to accept his election as the chief of the Kerala Congress (Mani).
In September 2019, the by-election in Pala constituency- the seat which KM Mani had been holding since 1965- also led to political fights in KC(M). Jose K Mani had nominated Josh Tom for the seat and he was defeated by Mani C Kappan of Left Democratic Front. It was, however, a blow to KC(M) and UDF.
On the other hand, another ally of the UDF, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has declared their alliance with Welfare Party eyeing at the upcoming panchayat elections in the state. Party General Secretary and MP, PK Kunhalikutty, and state secretary KPA Majeed have said that “Muslim League’s partnership with Welfare Party will ally with Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) in the upcoming panchayat elections.”
Welfare party was founded in 2011, facilitated by the Jamaat-e-Islami, an organisation that aims for "Iqaamat-e-Deen" or "Establishment of (Islamic) way of life in all aspects of life".
Commenting on the alliance with Welfare Party, Rajya Sabha MP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Elamaram Kareem said, “Welfare party has never denounced the religious nationalism of Jamaat-e-Islami just like the BJP has never denounced the Hindu nationalism of the Sangh Parivar.”
He added that this is the time when secular factions should unite against the communal propaganda spread by RSS – Sangh Parivar associations in the country. So it is not right that Muslim League is allying with communal forces, for vested political interests.
(With Inputs from PTI)