The fight in the Kerala Congress (Mani) group over the candidate for the Pala Assembly byelection has left the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in a quandary. The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) has gone way ahead pitching for NCP’s Mani C Kappan who has been a regular candidate against Kerala Congress veteran the late KM Mani. The BJP-led NDA is yet to finalise its candidate and there is a view from the Kerala Congress faction led by PC Thomas in the front to have a Christian candidate in Pala.
The rift is over Mani’s son, Jose K Mani, Rajya Sabha member, insisting on his wife Nisha be the UDF candidate which has not been accepted by party working chairman PJ Joseph who has been trying hard to assert his supremacy in the party. Political sources said that when Jose found it hard convincing the UDF partners of his wife’s candidature, he offered to contest. But this has been opposed by the UDF.
Jose, who was the Lok Sabha member earlier and gave up his position much before the term ended, became the UDF candidate to the Rajya Sabha at the insistence of Muslim League and other partners. The Congress was left embarrassed as it was a seat supposed to have been set aside for it. Congress has made its stand clear against Jose being the candidate from Pala saying the front could not afford to lose its RS seat and also it would send wrong signals.
Joseph has made it clear that the front should look at having a `consensus’ candidate and look at `winnability’. He said on Friday that the party symbol could be given only to such a candidate suggesting that Jose could not decide the candidature. Major partners of UDF - Congress and Muslim League – have started talks to end the impasse. Joseph, who had threatened to contest as an Independent from Kottayam during the recent Lok Sabha election and was pacified by the UDF, expects to be heard and accepted at least this time.
The UDF which is to meet tomorrow is to take a final decision as time is running out. It is unlikely that Joseph will agree to a meeting with Jose. Joseph loyalists held a meeting today in Kottayam which has enraged the Jose faction whose leaders said Jose, and not Joseph, would decide the candidate and would be accepted by the UDF. The UDF meeting is crucial as a split appears a possibility if any one faction’s claim is accepted.