Updated: February 13, 2021 9:21:34 am
The kerala unit of the NCP, a long-time ally of the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF, is all set for a split ahead of the assembly elections with a faction led by party legislator Mani C Kappan deciding to join the Congress-led UDF. The move is a fallout of the CPI (M) decision to hand over Kappan’s seat Pala to the Kerala Congress (M), a new entrant in the LDF.
Ever since the CPI(M) decided to give the Kerala Congress (M) the Pala seat, which Kappan had won for the LDF in a 2019 bypoll, a group led by him has been pulling apart from the ruling alliance. Contending that denial of the seat as unfair, Kappan had tried to convince the NCP’s national leadership to quit the LDF. With the national leadership delaying a final decision in his favour, Kappan on Friday said he would join the UDF.
“I am going to join the UDF as a party. I wanted the national leadership to convey a final decision (on continuing alliance with LDF) before Sunday,’’ Kappan said.
Sources in the Kappan camp said he fixed Sunday as a deadline considering that the UDF’s state-wide political tour, led by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, would enter Pala that day. It is expected that Kappan would share dais with Chennithala during the Pala leg of the political tour – “Prosperous Kerala Yatra”.
The UDF welcomed Kappan’s decision with Chennithala announcing that the UDF was ready to allot Pala seat to Kappan.
The Pala seat has been the bone of contention between Kappan and the LDF. He scored a historic win for the LDF from Pala, a constituency which until then stood with then UDF ally Kerala Congress (M). However, the CPI (M) decided to hand over the seat to Kerala Congress (M) after that regional Christian party joined the LDF fold.
Although Kappan has been insistent on his party quitting the LDF following this decision, another faction of the NCP led by state Transport Minister A K Saseendran wanted to continue with ruling alliance. Saseendran has been winning from Elathur in Kozhikode, a CPI(M) bastion, and remaining with the LDF is critical for him.
The NCP won three seats in the 2016 assembly elections, but does not have a stronghold to fall back on anywhere in Kerala.
With Kappan joining the UDF, the Pala constituency, where Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K Mani is all set to be the LDF candidate, is poised for a keen contest. In the last civic body elections, the LDF had allotted only two divisions/wards to the NCP in various local bodies within Pala constituency. But the NCP fielded its own candidates in 12 divisions and won 11 of them.
For Jose K Mani, the battle for his late father K M Mani’s home turf Pala is crucial. He recently quit from the Rajya Sabha, a seat he had won when his party was an ally of the UDF, to contest from Pala in the assembly elections.
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