Kottayam: A riveting electoral battle is likely on the cards in Pala as the incumbent NCP legislator Mani Kappan will try to retain the seat as a candidate of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the upcoming Kerala Assembly Election. All eyes will be on this constituency if Kappan has Jose K Mani, the Chairman of the Kerala Congress (Mani) faction, as his challenger from the Left Democratic Front (LDF) camp.
Jose K Mani has been reportedly assured the seat by the CPM, the leading party of the LDF, as the Kerala Congress (Mani) made its entry to the front last year after exiting the UDF. His task is to wrest the Pala seat which the party lost in the 2019 by-election warranted by his father K M Mani's death. It was after the bypoll his party quit the UDF and joined the LDF.
On the other hand Kappan who fought a valiant battle as an LDF candidate against Kerala Congress to win the seat has nothing short of a victory in his mind. He has decided to contest from Pala as part of the UDF, irrespective of NCP's decision on continuing its decades-old ties with the LDF in Kerala.
The result could go either way and this makes the forthcoming state poll battle in Pala exciting. Kappan had tasted success in the bypoll with many votes from the LDF kitty. With his victory, the LDF could recover the constituency after half a century as K M Mani, the founder of Kerala Congress (Mani), held sway and won all elections since 1967 until his death, necessitating the by-election. As long as K M Mani was there, the result from Pala was a foregone conclusion, with the losers including Kappan too.
Will Jose seek another seat?
If Kappan is allotted the poll symbol of the Congress as is rumoured, the Pala contest would be tough for Jose K Mani. As a safe option, he could enter the fray from Kaduthuruthy and avoid the ignominy of losing to Kappan who had vehemently opposed the LDF move to allot Pala to Kerala Congress (Mani). But even if he avoids Pala, he can't evade the charge that he has fled fearing Kappan.
Even the CPM is unlikely to allow Jose to leave the Pala seat.
Kerala Congress sources say poll preparations are afoot in equal measure both in Pala and Kaduthuruthy expecting Jose as a candidate. The Kerala Congress (M) chairman had taken part in K M Mani memorial meet held in the two constituencies recently.
The LDF had secured a majority of over 10,000 votes across the Pala assembly constituency segments in the December 2020 local body polls. In Kaduthuruthy the majority was more than 20,000 votes. This statistics would help the party to make a choice between Kaduthuruthy and Pala if Jose has to be fielded.
It is expected Roshy Augustine, the Idukki MLA, may contest from Pala if Jose chooses Kaduthuruthy.