Mani C Kappen's victory in Pala assembly constituency has all the elements of a revenge drama. Kappen chose to leave the ruling Left Democratic Front ahead of the assembly polls despite strong indications of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) retaining power.
Kappen thought it is better to lose without compromising on self-esteem rather than being a servile in a winning coalition.
Kappen quit his party, NCP, and floated his own splinter group Nationalist Congress- Kerala, and joined the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) as he sensed that the CPM was gearing up to allot the Pala seat to its new ally Kerala Congress (M) and field its leader Jose K Mani there.
Kappen saw it as an injustice to him as he had wrested the seat -- a family fiefdom of the late K M Mani, Jose K Mani's father -- in the 2019 by-poll following the veteran's demise.
Kappen won the seat defeating Kerala Congress (M)'s Jose Tom after tasting defeat against Mani in three previous elections.
It was a victory of perseverance too, even though the political situation, mainly the infighting within the Kerala Congress (M), also favoured him.
One and a half years later, Kappen thought it was ridiculous to vacate the seat for Jose K Mani as the LDF rolled out red carpet to him.
In Kappen, the UDF found the perfect candidate for Pala. Kappen was presented as a victim of the LDF's unethical and power-hungry political moves.
He said the LDF even paralysed the development projects he had initiated to make him look like an under-performer and replace him with Jose K Mani. Throughout the campaign, Kappen remained confident of winning. Those who kept their ears close to the ground in Pala could scent Kappen's chances of winning even though political pundits were only ready to admit that there was a tough fight in Pala.
Even those who predicted a win for Kappen thought he would scrape through by a thin majority. But on May 2, he stands a true winner with his margin crossing 10,000 votes. He termed it a victory of the power of people over money power.
It is a victory of Kappen's personal charm, which the UDF machinery could tap. It seems Pala also voted heavily against Jose K Mani's perceived unfriendly nature and selfish political motives.
Remember, the LDF had organised a foot march by Jose K Mani across the constituency as an image building exercise after he joined the coalition.
While Kappen looks a hero in the 2021 Pala poll saga, Jose K Mani appears to be not the villain, but a tragic hero.
Jose K Mani's move to join the LDF paid dividends for his party, which is set to win seats like Kanjirappally, Idukki, Changanassery and Poonjar and thus emerge as a major player in the alliance. However, he will not be in the assembly and won't get a cabinet berth he was sure to get if the LDF returned to power.
Kappen also was sure candidate to be a minister if the UDF came to power. But with the opposition front failing miserably, he will have to bury such hopes.
Kappen had lost to KM Mani by 7,759 votes in 2006, 5,259 votes in 2011 and 4,703 in 2016. In 2019, he won by 2,943 votes. In 2021, despite contesting from a different front, his victory margin has risen to around 11,000 votes.
Now, it seems a tough task for Jose K Mani regain his father's political turf.