Ahead of the local body elections in Kerala, the PC Thomas-led faction of the Kerala Congress is set to end its alliance with the BJP-led NDA, miffed that certain promises made to the party as part of coalition understanding have not been kept. The party is the BJP’s sole ally in Kerala with support among Christians in the central Travancore region.
While a formal announcement on the break-up is awaited, leaders of Thomas-faction have begun backchannel talks with the Congress-led UDF. If the UDF relents, the entry of the Thomas faction could happen before the local body polls scheduled in December.
Thomas, a six-term MP from the Muvattupuzha constituency and the only NDA candidate to win a Lok Sabha election from Kerala, told the Indian Express: “There has been dissatisfaction within the party for quite some time about posts in central government boards and corporations that were promised to us and still not given to us. There has been no progress on it for the last two years. I had conveyed these concerns to the NDA leadership and had told them going ahead together would be difficult.”
At a meeting of NDA alliance partners last month, Thomas said he had raised the issue with BJP leaders who assured him that they would try to get some of the posts for his party. But there have been no discussions or talks since then.
Thomas said, “For quite some time now, the BJP central leadership has not taken a favourable stand towards its unit here and its allies. BJP leaders have also complained that there is no support from the top. They are taking active interest in Tamil Nadu because there’s a possibility of winning a few seats there. I think they are not expecting to win any seats in Kerala (in the next Assembly election).”
He added that there’s a feeling among local BJP leaders that they are not able to meet the state’s needs from the central government.
In the 2016 Assembly elections, the Thomas faction had contested four seats as part of the NDA, a bargain that Thomas admits will be a tall order if his party were to join the UDF. The UDF already has two factions of the Kerala Congress within it – the KC(Joseph) and KC(Jacob) which vie for the same section of votes.
“Yes, it won’t be easy to get as many seats. But we will ask for certain seats and based on their feedback, we will take a decision,” he said.
Initially, the Thomas faction had pondered about merging with Joseph faction upon entering the UDF. But, the Joseph faction is involved in a tussle with Jose K Mani faction of Kerala Congress over the ownership of the party’s ‘two leaves’ symbol which is currently in the High Court. The Election Commission had earlier recognised the Jose faction as the original Kerala Congress (M).
With the Jose faction crossing over into the LDF, the UDF is looking to woo parties like Thomas faction in order to offset any losses among Catholic and farmer voters in central Kerala. The state is scheduled to hold Assembly elections in April-May next year.
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