Jose K Mani announces decision to join LDF, to resign as Rajya Sabha MP

Kottayam: In a move that restructures political alliances in the state, the Kerala Congress(M) faction led by Jose K Mani on Wednesday announced its decision to work with the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). With that, the major regional party officially severed its decades-long ties with the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

Jose K Mani also announced the decision to quit his Rajya Sabha membership, won with the support of the UDF.

Jose said he has not held any discussions with the LDF as to joining it and their decision to cooperate with the Left front was unconditional. However, there are reports that Jose and the CPM had been discussing the matter for long and the two have reached a consensus over sharing seats in the upcoming local body polls and the assembly elections due next year.

Announcing his faction's political position at a press conference in Kottayam, Jose expressed hope that the LDF leadership will take a decision on his party's entry into the ruling front.

Jose, son of veteran Kerala Congress (M) leader late K M Mani, hailed the CPM-led front's efforts to safeguard the secularism in the country.

He also said the LDF government in the state was keen to work towards the welfare of the farming community, which is the core base of his party.

Jose K Mani announces decision to join LDF, to resign as Rajya Sabha MP
P J Joseph and Jose K Mani

Justifying his decision to work with the LDF, Jose said the front has been relentlessly fighting against the growing communal forces in the country.

Attacking the UDF leadership and a rival Kerala Congress (M) faction led by P J Joseph, Jose said a section in the front "expelled" his faction from the UDF after a dispute arose over a post in a local body.

The UDF humiliated the MLAs and leaders who stood by his late father K Mani, who built the UDF 38 years ago, he said.

He also alleged that P J Joseph faction engaged in character assassination of the leaders of his faction.

"The UDF leadership supported Joseph's bid to hijack the Kerala Congress (M). They (UDF leadership) did injustice to us," Jose alleged.

Pinarayi welcomes move

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the LDF leadership were quick to welcome Jose faction's decision to cooperate with their front.

In a statement, Vijayan said the KC(M) has taken a stand that LDF is the politically correct formation, ending its 38- year-old association with the UDF. The matters related to the party's LDF entry will be decided at the front's meeting, he said. The decision to join hands with the Left Front will create ripples in Kerala politics and was the beginning of the destruction of the UDF, Vijayan said.

"The decision of the KC(M) to join the Left Front was taken after analysing the Left government's stand in the matter of farmers' crisis. We welcome their decision to join and this Front will strengthen the secular front," he said.

Jose K Mani announces decision to join LDF, to resign as Rajya Sabha MP
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

LDF convener A Vijaraghavan said the KC(M) has expressed its willingness to work with the LDF and Jose has made it clear there are no pre-conditions.

Talks will be held with other LDF partners, he said.

Meanwhile, the UDF leadership flayed the move, saying Jose faction "backstabbed" the Congress-led front, which made him Rajya Sabha member.

UDF convenor M M Hassan also said the Jose faction should quit all the parliamentary positions including Kottayam Lok Sabha seat won with the support of the Congress-led front.

Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala said those with the Kerala Congress will not accept the merger.

The Left has welcomed the Kerala Congress (M) after targeting K M Mani for years.

"During the March 2015 budget session, the Left members tried to prevent then finance minister K M Mani from presenting the budget.Today, Jose K Mani said they were insulted inside the Assembly. Actually it was the Left Front which tarnished the image insulting K M Mani.He was deeply hurt due to this act. His soul will not accept this and forgive them," Chennithala told reporters here.

KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran said the decision was immature, while former chief minister Oommen Chandy said it was "unfortunate."

P K Kunhalikutty, national general secretary of the IUML, a coalition partner of the UDF, felt it was suicidal and would have no impact on the UDF.

"There is a strong pro-UDF wave in the state, thanks to the corruption and maladministration by the LDF government. The Joseph faction of Kerala Congress, which holds majority of the KC(M) leaders and cadres, is with the UDF fold," he claimed.

Describing the LDF as a "sinking ship", he said Jose K Mani's decision to part ways with the UDF was suicidal.

Bar bribery case

Jose K Mani announces decision to join LDF, to resign as Rajya Sabha MP
Mani C Kappan

Terming Jose's move as political absurdity,BJP state president K Surendran claimed it was only to settle the bar bribery case against late K M Mani, former Finance minister and Jose's father, who was targeted by the LDF both inside and outside the state assembly over allegations of bribery in the case.

Asked about the massive protests staged by the LDF against Mani over the bar bribery allegations that led to his resignation as the veteran leader's resignation as finance minister, Jose K Mani pointed fingers at the UDF leadership for triggering the allegations.

Jose faction's issues with the UDF leadership aggravated in June this year after it was "ousted" from the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in connection with the tussle over the Kottayam district panchayat chief post.

The UDF leadership had later rectified it saying the Jose group was not ousted from the front and it was only temporarily barred from the UDF meeting for refusing to honour an agreement made in public with the coalition front over sharing the Kottayam district panchayat president's post.

Questions on Pala remain

Jose K Mani said there has not been any talk over the Pala assembly seat which was represented by K M Mani for over 50 years. However, he reiterated that 'Pala was a feeling close to his party's heart'. Pala is now represented by NCP leader Mani C Kappan who belongs to the LDF. Meanwhile, Kappan also reiterated that 'Pala is my heart'. He said the NCP would stay with the LDF.

NCP state president Peethambaran Master said there were no circumstances that call for the NCP to relinquish the Pala seat to another party. UDF convener M M Hassan, meanwhile, revealed that Kappan has informed the UDF leadership that he would not stay with the LDF if Pala seat is allocated to Jose K Mani. Kappan, however, rejected such reports.

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