PC Thomas-led Kerala Congress quits NDA, merges with Joseph faction

PJ Joseph, PC Thomas
PJ Joseph, PC Thomas

Kochi: Ahead of the April 6 Assembly polls, the Kerala Congress headed by former Union Minister P C Thomas on Wednesday quit the BJP-led NDA and merged with another Kerala Congress faction headed by P J Joseph, which is a constituent of the Congress-led UDF.

Thomas, who helped the NDA register its first electoral victory in Kerala by winning the 2004 Lok Sabha polls from then Muvattupuzha seat, quit the BJP-led alliance alleging that his party was neglected by the front when the seats were allocated for the April 6 polls.

The Kerala Congress leader, who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, said his party was given four seats in the 2016 Assembly polls but not a single seat was allocated this time.

Thomas said the BJP leadership had offered him Pala assembly seat but he did not opt for it due to some personal reasons.

Later in the afternoon, the merger took place at an election convention of the UDF held at Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam district.

Senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy and senior leaders of the Kerala Congress Joseph faction attended the election convention of sitting MLA from Kaduthuruthy constituency Mons Joseph.

Mons Joseph is a senior leader of the Joseph faction, which lost its election symbol and recognition following its split with the Jose K Mani-led Kerala Congress (M).

The merger became a reality two days after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by P J Joseph challenging the Election Commission's order recognising the Jose K Mani faction as the official Kerala Congress (M) and allotting the party's symbol to it.

The 10 Joseph faction candidates contesting the assembly elections could now be contesting on the 'Cycle' symbol after the merger.

PC Thomas' outfit already has the 'Chair' symbol, but it will be granted the 'Cycle' symbol by the Election Commission.

After Tuesday's SC verdict, Joseph candidates were left without a common poll symbol. It was temporarily allowed the 'Chenda' (a cylindrical percussion instrument resembling the drum) for the 2020 civic polls. The peculiar situation arose as 'Chenda' is not in the Election Commission's list of poll symbols, but 'Drum' is; however, Joseph was against choosing the latter.

If the Joseph faction didn't resort to the merger, its candidates faced the prospect of contesting as UDF independents and this could have ramifications in the election campaign. The merger though is not unexpected as reports about the likely move had appeared a couple of months ago.

In electoral battles having a common symbol is found to be an advantage. If candidates of the same outfit contest on different symbols, voters could be confused over the different poll identity. On ballot papers or electronic voting machines the poll symbol stands out and voters often are attracted to the familiar sign.

Welcoming the merger of two Kerala Congress groups, Chandy said Thomas has reached the right place and said more such democratic forces will join the Congress-led alliance in the state.

Thomas expressed hope that more people will join the Kerala Congress.

M P Joseph, son-in-law of former minister and Kerala Congress supremo, K M Mani, is contesting from Trikaripur constituency.

Thomas is the son of the first Opposition leader of Kerala P T Chacko, whose loyalists formed the party Kerala Congress in 1964 after Chacko's demise.

The party has witnessed several splits and mergers since. Currently, there are seven splinter groups of KC – three in UDF and four in LDF.

Kerala Congress P J Joseph faction, P C Thomas faction and T M Jacob faction are the UDF allies while Kerala Congress (Mani) led by Jose K Mani, Democratic KC, R Balakrishna Pillai faction, and Skaria Thomas faction are part of the LDF.

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