Elections 2019 | Last hope: Congress-Mani seat-swap in Kottayam

Last hope: Congress-Mani seat-swap in Kottayam
Senior Congress leaders Ramesh Chennithala and Oommen Chandy with Kerala Congress (M) supremo KM Mani.

Kottayam: The Congress in Kerala has almost finalised its candidates' list for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, but at least a section of the party's Kottayam unit is hopeful of some last-minute drama that would land them the seat held by ally Kerala Congress (Mani).

The Kottayam Lok Sabha seat has been lying vacant since June after its MP, Jose K Mani, was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Now, with Jose K Mani, son of KC(M) patriarch K M Mani, out of the fray, the party is yet to decide on who will contest from the seat. The uncertainty makes a section of Congress leaders in the district hopeful of the seat being handed over to their party. The section, which is yet to iron out differences with KC(M) following the election of the district panchayat president in May 2017, hopes that Mani-led party would opt for a safer seat leaving Kottayam to Congress. The safer seat could be Idukki or Chalakudy or Wayanad, they say.

Sources in the party told Onmanorama that talks of a swap would start only at the last minute, apparently to avoid unnecessary controversies.

However, it seems they are only hoping against the hope since senior leaders of the party, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy and DCC president Joshi Philip, have denied such a possibility.

Jose K Mani with KM Mani

The fissures between the Congress and the KC(M) originated in Kottayam after the latter won the district panchayat election in 2017 with the support of the CPM. The KC(M) went for the CPM's support since it was staying away from the Congress-led UDF that time. The KC(M) severed the ties with the Congress in 2016 following the assembly polls, alleging ill-treatment by the alliance major. However, the party returned to the UDF last year ahead of the Chengannur assembly bypoll. This also paved way for Congress' Sunny Pampady being elected as the Kottayam district panchayat president.

Probable candidates

The KC(M) is yet to announce its candidate in Kottayam. But the section of Congress which wishes to contest from the seat has prepared a list of probables. The Congress, if it contests from Kottayam, may field one of the four senior leaders, they say. The four are Joseph Vazhackan, Sunny Pampady, Lathika Subhash and Tomy Kallani.

Joseph Vazhackan is a former MLA from Muvattupuzha constituency while Sunny Pampady, who is close to Oommen Chandy, is the current district panchayat president. Both Lathika and Tomy are former District Congress Committee presidents.

Jose K Mani won from Kottayam in 2009 and 2014 defeating the CPM's Suresh Kurup and JD(S)' Mathew T Thomas. Before that Suresh Kurup had been elected from the constituency in three consecutive terms. The constituency also has a history of sending Congress veteran Ramesh Chennithala, the current opposition leader in Kerala assembly to Parliament three times.

Former CM Oommen Chandy joined Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan during a march in Kottayam in 2018.

No swap: Chandy

Asked about the possibility of getting back Kottayam seat from KC(M), Oommen Chandy said a firm 'no'. “Whatever is given to them is theirs,” Chandy said. DCC president Joshi Philip also confirmed to Onmanorama that there was no formal discussion about the swap in any party forum.

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