Touching yet another flash point in the history of Kerala Congress, the Kerala Congress (Mani) is moving towards an imminent split with a section of leaders led by former MP Francis George, Antony Raju and KC Joseph have decided to join the left front, most likely on Thursday.
Reports of a possible split in the party wouldn’t surprise anyone in Kerala as its entire history was that of splits and mergers ever since the formation in 1972. However, reports of the split are still being denied by both K M Mani and P J Joseph, whose faction in the party have turned rebels now.
Interestingly, the latest development ahead of the state assembly polls, reportedly comes after Mani decided to promote his son Jose K Mani, the Lok Sabha leader of the party, sidelining other senior leaders. The leaders who have decided to leave the party were forced to take the decision after they felt that they may not be getting seats in the election.
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It was in April 2010 the Kerala Congress (Joseph), an erstwhile ally of left front in Kerala, who was also an education minister in LDF government, decided to pull out of the ruling LDF government to merge his Kerala Congress (J) party with Kerala Congress (Mani). If the timely decision in 2010 had helped Joseph retain power despite a regime change in the state, now he is losing grip on his own leaders after the senior leadership of his faction decided to join the left front.
Sources close to K Francis George, one of the rebel leaders, said they may be announcing their decision to join the Left Front by Thursday evening. But Joseph and Mani camps denied these reports. They told reporters that all negotiations over the seat sharing had been settled and there is no need for a split. However, the rebel group believes that they may be sidelined by Mani, who controls the party as he wants to elevate his son.
In November 2015, after Mani resigned from the post of state finance minister following allegations in the bar bribery case, he had been facing troubles in Congress-led UDF as well as in his own party.
While final round talks are on between Mani and Joseph, political experts see that the imminent split leaving Joseph alone in the Mani group would be detrimental to his political career too as he had been hostile in the Mani camp.
After the Kerala Congress party was formed in 1972, Mani, then a prominent youth leader, had led to the first split in 1976 following a tussle with leader K Balakrishna Pillai after the death of K M George,one of the founders.
While Mani formed Kerala Congress (M) in 1976, Pillai also came out of the party to start Kerala Congress (B). With 20 MLAs, Mani group was at the verge of yet another split in 1979 when P J Joseph, another emerging leader in the Kerala Congress chose his own path, leaving the party with six MLAs, making both Mani and Joseph groups significant in Kerala politics.
However, in 1982, Pillai returned to the Mani group. In 1985, Mani struck another deal with Joseph bringing him back to the party giving him the post of party Chairman.
The year 1987 was the most happening year Kerala Congress history when Mani and Joseph parted ways, a year ahead of Joseph’s entry into the Left Front, where he would enjoy a prominent space with his powerful vote base in Idukki and part of Kottayam and Ernakulam districts.
While Pillai revived his party in 1993, Joseph became the education minister in 1996 in the LDF government under veteran CPI(M) leader E K Nayanar.
When the splits and merger tales went on, ‘growth by mutation’ was the political secret of the Kerala Congress family. Over time at least half a dozen splinter groups were formed by small time leaders.
After the Mani-Pillai-Joseph generation in Kerala Congress, it was P C George and P C Thomas who split their parties in 2003. When George formed Kerala Congress (Secular) leaving Joseph group, Thomas formed IFDP, leaving the Mani group. When Thomas returned to Joseph camp in two years after enjoying power with NDA alliance, George, in 2009, returned to Mani camp.
When the historical merger of Joseph and Mani happened in 2010, Thomas chose to join the LDF. And for the very existence of Kerala Congress, the splits and merger will continue.