Pala: Political rivalry took a back seat when two opposing candidates contesting from the high-profile Pala Legislative Assembly constituency in the Kottayam district bumped into each other on Monday. They are none other than the incumbent legislator Mani C Kappen and Jose K Mani who represent the two main political combines in Kerala. Both came face to face at the Block Panchayat Office at Lalam in Pravithanam where the candidates for the Pala seat have to file the nomination papers to contest.
Kappen was about to leave the office after submitting his nomination papers when he saw Jose. “How are you,” Kappen asked with an extended hand.
Jose accepted the greeting with a firm handshake and replied, “I am fine.” Both the leaders were seen smiling as they exchanged pleasantries. The smile soon spread to their followers as well.
Kappen submitted his nomination papers before the assistant returning officer and BDO, Shaimon Joseph, at 11.50 am. He had reached the Block Office at 11am, and waited till the allotted time. Jose submitted his at 12 noon.
Both had switched political fronts of late and the former did so only when it became clear that the latter would be contesting from the Pala seat on behalf of the ruling Left Democratic Front.
Upon joining the United Democratic Front (UDF) last month, Kappen was expelled by his party the Nationalist Congress Party. Soon, he formed his own outfit the Nationalist Congress Kerala, which has been allotted two constituency seats, Pala and Elathur, to contest for the upcoming Kerala Assembly Election.
Kappen, who had left his residence near Mundankal Church early in the morning, attended the mass at the Church in Lalam. He prayed at the grave of his father Cherian J Kappen, a former MP, and the St Mary’s Shrine, known as Pala Kurishupally.
Around 10 am, he reached his brother’s residence at Chethimattom where the local UDF leaders were waiting for him. Autorickshaw crew Shaji Nellikkal, Ratheesh, Johny Mundupalam, Martin Mittathani, Baby, Prashanth Kannadiyurumbu and Kunju Pulikkal handed over to Kappan the amount to be deposited by the candidate.
LDF candidate Jose, accompanied by his wife Nisha, and children Priyanka, Rithika and Junior K M Mani, visited the Cathedral Church at Pala before reaching the grave of his father K M Mani. Before leaving his residence, the family had prayed together, and Jose sought the blessing of his mother, Kuttiyamma. He also prayed before the portrait of his father.
Chandy to file papers today
The UDF candidate in Puthupally, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, will file his nomination papers at the Pambady Block Panchayat Office in Pallikkathodu at 11 am on Tuesday.
LDF candidate Jaick C Thomas will be filing his papers on Wednesday.
Kerala Janapaksham candidate P C George submitted his nomination papers before the assistant returning officer at the Erattupetta Block Panchayat Office at 11.30 on Monday. He was accompanied by hundreds of his followers.
But expect no-holds-barred contest
While Jose is adamant about recapturing the constituency his party the Kerala Congress (Mani) had lost in a 2019 bypoll after the demise of his father K M Mani, Kappan is fighting to retain the seat he had wrested from then.
For decades Pala has been UDF’s sure seat, and the district Kottayam, its stronghold. They have to win Pala to prove it has not been affected by the departure of the Kerala Congress (Mani) party to the LDF camp.
CPM, on the other hand, has been generous to KC(M) and accepted almost all their demands with regard to the allocation of constituencies in a bid to make inroads into central Kerala.
BJP has fielded Dr J Prameela Devi, also a strong contestant, in Pala. The party decided to field its own candidate after denying the seat to P C Thomas who runs another Kerala Congress outfit.
The going will be tough for Jose, who had won the poll symbol, ‘two leaves’ after a legal battle with P J Joseph. A win is inevitable for him to prove that he represents the real Kerala Congress (M). He had managed to win the party’s chairmanship, and the performance of his party in the local body polls in Kottayam had further boosted his confidence.
KM Mani had been the undisputed leader of Pala, and the Kappan Brothers were the first to accept the challenge of taking on him in the constituency. Mani C Kappen completed the task begun by his brother George C Kappan to wrest the seat from KC(M).
Kappan is expecting that his win in the Pala by-poll, his work for the constituency as an MLA, and the unflinching support of the UDF will help him post another victory. Prameela Devi, on the other hand, feels BJP’s performance in the civic polls and the party’s sure votes will help her at the hustings.
With KC(M) joining the LDF the vote share of parties in Pala will change. The results of the local body polls have favoured both the LDF and the UDF. BJP, which captured the Mutholy Panchayat, considered to be the stronghold of KC(M), has significant influence in the constituency, which comprises 12 panchayats and the Pala municipality.
LDF is in power in the municipality and six panchayats, while the UDF has five despite KC(M) leaving the front.