The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala on Monday said Jose K. Mani, a Rajya Sabha MP supported by the Congress, has forfeited his rights to continue with the UDF over disciplinary matters, while he was planning to exit the opposition alliance along with two MLAs and two MPs who are loyal to him.
Jose K. Mani is the son of the late KM Mani— the former chief of Kerala Congress (Mani) or KC(M) party, the third-largest ally of UDF. After Mani’s death, he was on a succession war with a rival faction led by senior leader PJ Joseph for taking over KC(M). The action by the UDF is the first time the alliance has openly come out in support of the Joseph faction.
The move is widely expected to fasten Mani’s efforts to seek accommodation in the ruling alliance Left Democratic Front led by Communist Party of India (Marxist), or the opposition alliance National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), according to local reports.
The development is important as KC (M) is an influential party in central Kerala. The exit of Jose K Mani, with his loyalists in KC (M), could make politics fluid ahead of crucial local body polls expected in October. The local body polls are seen as a semifinal for next year’s assembly election, which is a matter of prestige for both the Congress and the CPM. Kerala is one of the last stops in the vanishing electoral footprint of both parties in India.
The UDF said the ouster follows the faction’s refusal to honour an agreement made in public with the coalition front, in connection with the tussle over the Kottayam district panchayat chief post. As per the agreement, the Jose faction was allowed to hold the post for six months and the faction led by Joseph, who is working Chairman of KC(M) for the remaining six months.
‘But, even after eight months, the Jose faction refused to honour the agreement. Besides, the faction openly declared that the pact was not valid,’ UDF convenor Benny Behanan told reporters. The decision on the ouster was taken at a high-level meeting of the front on Monday, and after a discussion by the leaders with all the other allies in the front, Behanan said. “The Jose-led faction does not deserve to continue in the front,” he said.
Behanan added that the faction would not be invited for any further UDF meetings and other decisions would be decided in the online meeting of UDF on 1 July.
Reacting to the news, Jose K Mani said that the decision on him was taken in a biased manner, and alleged it to be the product of the Joseph faction pressurising the UDF leadership. He, however, did not fully reveal his future plans and said it will be discussed with this colleagues in the coming days. Both CPM and BJP leaders reacted cautiously to the news, stating that they will weigh in on the issue once Mani makes up his mind on whether to stay within the UDF or not. “The UDF has still left a space for discussion with Mani. Let him take a decision on his own and after that, we will decide whether to accept him or not,” said CPM Kerala chief Kodiyeri Balakrishnan.