'Kerala Congress regains lost glory', says Joseph on merger with PC Thomas' outfit

'Kerala Congress regains lost glory', says Joseph on merger with PC Thomas' outfit
P C Thomas, Monce Joseph and Oommen Chandy at a election campaign event.

The 10 candidates of veteran Kerala Congress leader P J Joseph's faction faced the prospect of contesting next month's assembly elections as independents without a common poll symbol after the Supreme Court dismissed its appeal against a legal spat over the popular 'Two Leaves' poll symbol.

Joseph, who is with the United Democratic Front, overcame this crisis immediately by merging its faction with the splinter Kerala Congress (Thomas) party of PC Thomas on Wednesday. With the merger the Joseph will yet again have a party with the all-important name 'Kerala Congress' and a single poll symbol.

The merged entity will be known as 'Kerala Congress'. Thomas holds the legal right to this title which is coveted by the myriad offshoots of the Kerala-based regional political party. He quit the National Democratic Alliance ahead of the union with Joseph's group.

Joseph had run a political party named after him, Kerala Congress (Joseph), but that became defunct as it merged with the Kerala Congress (Mani) in 2020. However, he parted ways with the latter last year and his faction tried to claim the 'Two Leaves'. In the legal fight the Kerala High court allowed the rival faction to retain the symbol and the SC too confirmed it on Tuesday by dismissing Joseph group's plea.

The 10 Joseph faction candidates contesting the assembly elections could now be contesting on a common poll symbol after the merger. They will be now known as the Kerala Congress candidates after the shrewd move which was considered a few month ago but executed only now.

Merger talks

Though the merger talks between the two parties began about six months ago, the pace of negotiations was quite slow resulting in the delay in coming to a concrete decision. Finally, the talks that began on Tuesday night continued till the wee hours of Wednesday following which the two sides agreed to merge.

Prior to that the two parties reached an understanding on the posts of office-bearers to be shared and that made the merger easy.

In the first round of talks, Thomas came up with the condition that if the merger took place then he should be given the party chairman's post. Besides he should also be allotted the Kanjirapally assembly seat when allocations are made ahead of the state polls.

However, Joseph did not agree to give the chairman position to Thomas. A section of leaders in Joseph group were even against giving the Deputy Chairman post to him.

The talks hit a roadblock after Thomas became active in the NDA again and even participated in BJP chief K Surendran's Vijay Yatra recently.

Joseph had directed Mons Joseph, John Abraham and T U Kuruvilla to hold discussions with Thomas two days ago soon after the SC order came. Joseph, who is convalescing after Covid infection could not take part in the talks personally. The lawyers of the two sides - Thomas Kallungal, Joseph John and Josie Sebastian - also took part in the discussions.

It is after a gap of 13 years Thomas and Joseph are back together. In 2008 P C Thomas had merged his outfit with P J Joseph's party.

After the split in the Kerala Congress (Mani) following K M Mani's death in 2019, there were only two ways before Joseph: one was to obtain the party symbol through a legal battle; second, if he failed then revive the original Kerala Congress.

'Kerala Congress regains lost glory', says Joseph on merger with PC Thomas' outfit
P J Joseph

Joseph speaks to Malayala Manorama on the brief crisis that blew upon his face in the midst of the election campaign for the Kerala Assembly Election.

Was the decision to merge aimed at getting a single poll symbol ahead of the election?

Discussions to form a unified Kerala Congress, a single organization for all Kerala Congress parties, had been on even when Mani Sir (the founder of Kerala Congress (Mani) was alive. We have held talks with several people and outfits, but the united organisation did not materialise due to the adamant stand some have taken. Later, several others, including Francis George, returned to the fold. All this while, we have been talking with P C Thomas also. In fact, Thomas approached us for the merger. The Supreme Court order expedited the unification.

Will a Kerala Congress, without mentioning the groups in brackets, gain in this election?

The merger will benefit the Kerala Congress not only in this election, but also in future. Besides gaining strength, the Kerala Congress has now regained its lost glory. All the candidates of the Kerala Congress will win the polls.

What is the decision on poll symbol? Will you go back to the 'Cycle' symbol?

We have requested the Election Commission to lift the stay on the symbol, imposed after a dispute over it in the wake of P C Thomas leaving the party (in 2004). We expect a favourable decision. In that case, Kerala Congress will be contesting under the ‘Cycle’ symbol.

The Joseph faction is now following the KC(M)'s bylaws, which is in conflict with the bylaws of the Kerala Congress. Kerala Congress doesn’t have positions like the working chairman. Which bylaw will the Kerala Congress follow?

A general body meeting will decide on this matter. Forming a new set of bylaws is also under consideration.

What was UDF's reaction to P C Thomas' entry?

The Kerala Congress party, including P C Thomas, is not part of the UDF currently. Leaders, including Oommen Chandy, have welcomed the merger.

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