Kottayam: It is official. Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose Tom Pulikkunnel will not contest the upcoming Pala Assembly by-poll on the Kerala Congress (M)'s party symbol, Two Leaves.
This was confirmed after the returning officer, after consulting the Chief Electoral Officer, rejected one of his nomination papers on Thursday.
However, he will contest as an independent after the returning officer accepted his second nomination paper.
On Wednesday, he submitted two nomination papers – one as Kerala Congress (M) candidate and the other as an independent.
“I don't have any regrets for not being able to contest in the party symbol,” said Jose Tom. “My symbol is Mani sir's face (late KM Mani),” he added.
The decision means Jose Tom will fight the election as an independent candidate, supported by the United Democratic Front.
UDF leader Oommen Chandy played down the controversy over the symbol, saying it was just a technical issue. “Jose Tom is the UDF candidate,” he told reporters in Kottayam.
The month-long power tussle with in the Kerala Congress denied Jose Tom – who belongs to the Jose K Mani faction - the party symbol.
The rival faction, led by veteran PJ Joseph, insisted that Jose Tom cannot contest on the party symbol as he was suspended from the party.
In another significant development, Joseph Kandathil, who owes allegiance to PJ Joseph, withdrew his nomination on Thursday, burying speculations that the latter would throw his weight behind the rebel candidate.
On Wednesday, Joseph alleged that the two nominations submitted by Jose Tom were faulty. “His candidacy is against the party's constitution. I approved it only due to the pressure from the UDF. I had informed them that the party symbol won't be allocated to him," Joseph said.
Jose K Mani refused to acknowledge Joseph as party's working chairman after the demise of K M Mani, who was the party chairman.
P J Joseph had insisted earlier that he would provide the party symbol if the candidate submitted a letter acknowledging him as the party's working chairman. However, the Jose K Mani group claimed that a letter acknowledging P J Joseph as the working chairman and requesting the Two Leaves symbol for Jose Tom was sent to P J Joseph on Sunday itself. But, P J Joseph said that he received the letter on Wednesday evening.
The Pala seat fell vacant after the demise of party chairman K M Mani, the father of Jose K Mani.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Mani C Kappan and Bharatiya Janata Party's N Hari are the other candidates in the fray.
The byelection is scheduled to be held on September 23.
In 2016 Assembly election, KM Mani defeated Mani C Kappan by 4,703 votes. Mani's victory margin was 5,259 votes in 2011 and 7,759 in 2006.