Ahead of the local civic body elections this year and Assembly polls in 2021, a faction of the Kerala Congress (M) led by Rajya Sabha Member Jose K Mani on Wednesday quit the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala and decided to join hands with the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the decision will create a strong spin-off in state politics. “Jose’s entry to LDF would strengthen the secular and democratic forces in the state. This marks the fall of UDF,” Vijayan said.
However, Opposition Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said Jose had betrayed the UDF and flouted political dignity.
Jose told the media that he will now resign as a KC(M) Rajya Sabha member. “The party has been facing severe insult and injustice from certain quarters in Congress. There is a strong agenda to politically annihilate the Kerala Congress (M),” he said.
The move is a fallout of the power struggle within the Kerala Congress (M) — following the death of Jose’s father and party veteran K M Mani in 2019 — between Jose and senior party leader and MLA Joseph. Jose had fielded his nominee for the bye-election to Pala constituency, which had been held by K M Mani for 50 years, and had blamed Joseph and UDF for betraying him after his nominee was defeated. Since then, there have been several instances that drove a wedge between Jose and Congress leaders.
By accommodating the splinter group of the regional Christian party in the LDF, CPI(M) hopes to make electoral gains in the civic body and Assembly polls. Jose’s fate in the LDF and his bargaining power with CPI(M) will primarily depend upon his faction’s performance in the civic body elections while Assembly polls are a different ball game altogether.
Jose’s rival Joseph said the exit will make little impact in the UDF. “Jose should reveal who has backstabbed him. All those who love K M Mani will continue to stay with the UDF. The decision to move to the LDF camp would be disastrous for Jose,” said Joseph.
Meanwhile, several Congress leaders pointed to the bar bribery issue which the LDF had raised against K M Mani during his term as finance minister in the previous UDF regime — among key issues raised by the CPI(M) during the 2016 Assembly polls.
“By moving to LDF, Jose betrayed the soul of his own father,” said Chennithala.
In a statement, the CPI(M) state secretariat said Jose’s decision will lead to a new, positive polarisation in Kerala politics. “The stand of Jose that he is joining the LDF unconditionally is welcome. UDF is now reduced to a coalition of Congress and Indian Union Muslim League.”
Kerala Congress (M) had a short stint in the LDF 40 years ago, when K M Mani had become a minister in 1980 and quit the alliance after two years, toppling the then LDF government.
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