Incredible it may sound, but true, a Mani group is emerging in Kerala Congress (Mani). Interestingly the undeclared leader of the Mani group is Jose K. Mani, MP, son of departed veteran K.M. Mani, Founder of Kerala Congress (Mani).
Trouble has been brewing in the Kerala Congress (Mani) after the demise of K.M. Mani. The appointment of P.J. Joseph, Vice Chairman of Kerala Congress (Mani), who should have automatically become Chairman of the party after the demise of K.M. Mani, was delayed thanks to the power struggle in the party. Resistance came from Jose K. Mani, who was groomed by his late father for some time as anointed successor. He made counter moves presumably arguing that it would be better that party matters be taken after the mourning period is over.
However, efforts to make Kerala Congress (Mani) into a dynasty affair began with Jose K. Mani trying to contact district presidents of the party and senior leaders of the party in an effort to foist himself as the chairman of the party. These efforts resulted in resistance at all levels, initially not very significant. But mini faction meetings and consultations did provoke others, who felt that the senior most leader of the party, P.J. Joseph, would be the ideal leader to succeed K.M. Mani, as he has the required experience, acceptability among rank and file and who stood with the departed leader in all crises and difficult situations. He can be trusted to lead the party and carry together all sections of the party many felt. This section, which included some of the loyal followers of K.M.Mani, felt that the party should not be controlled by one family and should not have the image of a dynasty. Any such attempt should be defeated at the very beginning.
The initial move by the anti-dynasty group was to give charge of Chairman of the party to P.J. Joseph. A circular was issued on May 9, by Joe Abraham, who holds the charge of organizational matters. It also mentioned the meeting to be organized by the party state committee to commemorate Mani in Thiruvananthapuram on May 15. The statement also said that the post of chairman will be filled through an election. Jose K. Mani preferred not to respond immediately. Later, came the response which indicated that an obituary meet cannot elect the chairman. Pat came Joy Abraham’s response: Party constitution clearly says that in the absence of chairman all his functions and powers will rest with working chairman. At the same time electing the next chairman is another process which will take place as scheduled.
The two issues which will witness a clash between the two groups are: Election of chairman and party nominee for Pala constituency represented by late K.M. Mani. There were reports about nomination of a close relative Jose, though one is not sure whether he is toying with the idea of inducting another family member to an elected position. There were also reports about discussions in two camps about tactics and strategies to be worked out to take over the party.
Indication of things were not in order in the party came when Additional District Magistrate, Kollam restrained P.J. Joseph from choosing the new chairman of the party and other office bearers during commemoration meet. The court order was delivered through a special messenger. It was M. Manoj, Kollam district general secretary of Kerala Congress (M) who approached the court that election would be against the by-laws. It was not clear who was behind the move. But it is clear that there could be protracted, both political and legal, battle over the leadership question.
It is apparent now that Jose K. Mani is keen to keep the leadership of the party within the family fold whereas others, led by P.J. Joseph, are keen to make it into a democratic party with collective leadership, elected on the basis of inner party elections. But if one section makes it a legal dispute a decision on the leadership of the party would take a long time to settle.
Meanwhile there many formulae in circulation, but it appears on the post of party chairman both leaders are unwilling to compromise.
Till then the question remains: Kerala Congress (M): Towards dynasty, split or status quo?