Uneasy calm in Kerala Congress (Mani) as senior party leader ducks crucial meeting

Thiruvananthapuram: Things appear to be in a flux in the Kerala Congress ( Mani) – third biggest ally in the Congress-led United Democratic Front — as one of its tallest leaders P.J. Joseph, who is also working chairman of the party, was absent in the concluding programme of the statewide yatra of his party held here on Friday.

The yatra began on January 24 from Kasargode in north Kerala and passed through the state. It was led by party chairman K.M.Mani’s son, Jose K. Mani, who is a Rajya Sabha member.

Speaking to the media in the state capital on Friday, Jose K. Mani said “things are all fine” and that it’s all a media creation.

“It was Joseph who had flagged off my yatra and he mentioned that he would not be present today, as he has to take part in a Kerala government programme in the UAE. The media is making unnecessary speculation that I am going to be the new chairman of the party. Such a thing is not at all on the agenda,” said Jose K. Mani.

The first signs of trouble surfaced in the party after K.M. Mani decided to nominate Jose K Mani, who was a sitting Lok Sabha member from Kottayam in the gifted Rajya Sabha seat by the Congress, when Mani returned to the UDF last year after quitting it in 2016.

Joseph was keen to send one of his trusted aides for that seat, and since then, strains appeared in the relationship.

With the UDF all set to select candidates for the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state, it was Joseph who first raised the demand that Kerala Congress (Mani) get two seats, one more than that they got.

The Congress over the years has contests 16 seats, the IUML- 2, Kerala Congress (M) and RSP, one each.

Jose K. Mani pointed out that the seat-sharing talks in the UDF is going to be held on the February 18 and that all such matters would be raised in the meeting.