On a day marked by a flurry of action in the Kerala Congress(M), little in concrete emerged either to douse the flames or to control the damage caused to the party on account of an open statement by its vice-chairman, P.C. George, renouncing its claim for an additional Lok Sabha seat.
The statement had caused the party to lose its face even before the commencement of election talks with the Congress and forced former Joseph faction members into a total retreat from party activities. The saving grace was the open statement from party chairman K.M. Mani rejecting outright the very relevance of Mr. George’s statement. Mr. Mani made it clear that he had directed Mr. George to avoid casting personal aspersions while making statements, and asked him to maintain mutual respect with other leaders.
That Mr. Mani was under immense pressure to show some tangible results to Mr. George’s critics was evident on Thursday as colleagues from his own camp joined the former Joseph faction members in the rebellion against Mr. George. The Joseph faction members increased their stakes in the ongoing political roulette making a three-point demand: Mr. George’s removal from the posts of Chief Whip, party vice-chairman, and membership in the UDF liaison committee.
One senior leader said time had already run out and the statements were of no use. “We want concrete action,” he said and alleged that the vice-chairman had put the interests of the party at stake to gain some brownie points in his factional fight.
On the other hand, Mr. George has submitted his grievances about the former Joseph faction leaders, alleging a conspiracy against him. A third component of the ongoing fratricidal war appears to be pressure from his own leaders who hold posts in local bodies and the Legislative Assembly, especially those from Idukki district who have a personal interest to mend ways with the former Joseph faction which has roots in the area.
Now efforts are on to hammer out a preliminary formula before the convening of the 21-member high-power committee of the party. While dates have not been declared, the top leadership is keen to convene it at the earliest, so that the party could be readied for the Lok Sabha elections in which stakes are high for the sitting MP from Kottayam, Jose K. Mani.
Despite the immense pressure from all sides, it is not clear if the party and its chairman will be able to take any disciplinary action against its vice-chairman who has openly revolted against them. Many believe that if Mr. George continues with his style of functioning, little could they do to rein him in, especially before the elections.
As such, the efforts may centre on arriving at a compromise formula, it is pointed out. However, whether the former Joseph faction members would agree to it remains to be seen, given the present mood in the party. With the leaders of the faction sticking to their demands and vouching for their continuation in the UDF, the ball may ultimately fall in the UDF court again.