Joseph faction forces postponement of meet; seeks action against P.C. George

The differences in the Kerala Congress (M) came out in the open on Wednesday with supporters of Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph forcing a postponement of the steering committee meeting of the party on the issue of bridling the recalcitrant P.C. George, Government Chief Whip and party vice-chairman, for his style of functioning and statements.

The Joseph faction leaders now want the party’s 21-member high-power committee to decide on the action against Mr. George.

Kerala Congress (M) chairman and Finance Minister K.M. Mani, who appeared to be under pressure to take an unambiguous stand on Mr. George, told mediapersons that he had received certain complaints against Mr. George. These would be discussed separately, he said.

The steering committee was convened following the strong stand Congress leaders and Ministers took in the Congress-government coordination committee and the Cabinet meetings, respectively, against Mr. George, whose acerbic statements have worsened ties between the KC(M) and the Congress.

On Wednesday, Mr. George made some adverse remarks against KC(M) leader and former MP Francis George and party general secretary Antony Raju, adding to the tension.

Mr. George has been hogging the limelight for some time now, taking on not only the Chief Minister, but also several ministers in the United Democratic Front (UDF) government. Being part of the government as Chief Whip with a Cabinet rank has not restrained him from picking on former minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar and Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, to name a few.

A year ago, he had to apologise for his adverse remarks against Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony. A few days ago, he had to apologise for some of his uncharitable remarks against the Congress party.

Mr. Francis George, T.S. John, and other supporters of Mr. Joseph have refused to recognise Mr. George’s status as party vice-chairman.

Lok Sabha seat issue

Besides, they are sore about Mr. George’s recent interview in which he had said that his party had no claims to a second Lok Sabha seat. The leaders feel that such statements are unwarranted at a time when the party has plans to demand an additional seat, over and above its sitting Kottayam seat, and the UDF has not even started its seat-sharing talks.

Mr. Joseph had advised Mr. Mani to put off the steering committee meeting in view of the tense situation that prevailed in the party. But Mr. Mani’s move to bring about a resolution to the issue was upset by Mr. George’s tirade against the Joseph faction leaders.

Sources close to Mr. Mani said the steering committee was convened in the backdrop of the party’s Raj Bhavan march and much before the row over Mr. George’s statement broke out. At the end of the day, the leaders close to Mr. Joseph succeeded in branding Mr. George a problem not only for the party but also for the UDF, besides putting the onus on Mr. Mani to tackle “the George issue” without any further delay in the larger interests of the party and the victory of his son, Jose K. Mani, who is sure to seek re-election from the Kottayam Lok Sabha seat.

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