Analysis | Pala buries its ghosts as poetic justice dawns in Christian heartland

LDF likely to pitch Mani C Kappan again to wrest Pala Assembly seat
Mani C Kappan.

Some sort of poetic justice dawned on Pala. After more than five decades, it has opted for a change of guard.

In the first polls after Kerala Congress (M) patriarch K M Mani's demise, the electorate opted for someone other than the veteran leader in a verdict that will give the ruling Left Democratic Front a breather from the negative press it had been gaining.

The victory also gives a lease of life to KC (M) working chairman P J Joseph, whose faction is engaged in a bitter feud with the faction headed by K M Mani's son Jose K Mani.

The leadership tussle within the KC (M) as well as Pala's first family could not have reflected in a better way in a constituency in Kerala's Christian heartland.

There wasn't any impact of the controversy over the Pinarayi Vijayan government's stand on the apex court verdict allowing entry to women of all ages to the hill shrine of Sabarimla, just a two-hour drive from Pala.

The voters here probably have other concerns.

In K M Mani, they saw a guardian angel, though his clout in the ballot box had been waning in the past three elections.

The tussle over the KC (M) also had a mirror image in K M Mani's own family, which has now been substantiated by P J Joseph. The votes of Jose K Mani faction went astray, he said. In other words, he was stating that Jose K Mani cannot claim the legacy of K M Mani.

With that Joseph has increased his bargaining power in the United Democratic Front. He also has gained an upper-hand in his probable return to LDF, which is at this point a subject of mere speculation.

The Congress state leadership, which has been running the campaign for the UDF candidate, has reasons to ponder.

That it failed to protect a UDF bastion when a perceived anti-incumbency factor was at play across the state should give it jitters.

But then, the local Congress leaders were always not so fond of the kid's glove treatment meted out to the KC (M) by the UDF leadership. This factor also seems to have played out this time.

But the greater worry for the Congress is that it is losing ground in perhaps the only state where it could wield some clout in the Lok Sabha polls.

It was on a high after the LS polls verdict in the state and it hoped to ride on that wave.

But Pala's electorate decided to give it a stern warning. It is catastrophic to cling on to age-old caste and community equations.

Pampering sections of the social strata may not necessarily yield electoral gains.

And negating local leadership to stitch political pacts would have an adverse effect, as reflected in the Pala bypoll outcome.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is again struggling to fend off charges of trading votes.

This time the UDF is charging that its votes have gone to the LDF kitty.

Regardless of the merit of this theory, it would now have to weave in a new approach to get a toehold in Kerala, considered a fortress it could never breach.

The major gain of Pala bypoll outcome is for the ruling LDF.

The Pinarayi government was gasping for breath after the LS poll drubbing.

It was battling popular rage in dealing with apex court verdict on Sabarimala and now on the demolition of the Maradu flats.

K M Mani's Pala has now given it a booster shot as it approaches bypolls to five constituencies in less than a month.

The LDF has to guard only Aroor constituency in that bypoll, necessitated by the election of its legislator to the Lok Sabha.

The rest of the seats are with the UDF so LDF doesn't have to worry much about the poll outcome.

The verdict also buries the clout of KC (M) within the UDF. It gives P J Joseph a sense of relief after he was denied a Lok Sabha seat, reportedly at the behest of Jose K Mani faction.

It would also fuel fresh strife within the KC (M) on its leadership role.

Mani C Kappan had been eating into K M Mani's victory margins in the past three assembly polls, so it is only fair that Pala gave a chance to its own native to represent it in the legislative assembly, though only after K M Mani's demise.

So poetic justice reigns on all counts as Pala elects its first legislator after K M Mani, leaving the legacy of Kerala Congress in tatters.

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