With the discussion on the vexed P.C. George issue taken out of formal party platforms, the Kerala Congress(M) appears to have steered itself clear of a direct confrontation between the factions providing space for finding a solution through Track II measures.
According to KC(M) leaders, of the nearly four-hour discussions held at a high-power committee of the KC(M) in Kochi on Monday, more than an hour was earmarked for airing views on the situation created by the party’s vice-chairman and Government Chief Whip (Mr. George), who had renounced the claim for more than one seat in the coming Parliament elections.
Almost all those who spoke, including six representatives from the former KC (J) group, took a critical view of the style of functioning of Mr. George.
The common thread of the views was that Mr. George had exceeded all reasonable limits of party discipline: that through his actions he had put the credibility of the party in jeopardy and that he would not have the support from any corner in the party for his actions.
However, while the Joseph loyalists went a step ahead and stuck to their demand for “tangible action” against him, leaders from the ‘original’ KC(M) remained silent on that part.
It was against this, that party chairman and Finance Minister K.M. Mani reprimanded Mr. George against his actions and asked him to keep “self-restraint” on such matters in future.
He, however, did not agree with the demand for removal of Mr. George from the post of Chief Whip. Though the Joseph loyalists wanted their views to be included in the minutes as a dissent note, Mr. Mani refused to entertain their demand.
Following this, it was decided that the issue would be discussed among senior leaders, Mr. Mani, Mr. Joseph and C.F. Thomas, party’s deputy chairman, opening the way for Track II measures to settle it before it snowballed into a rebellion, deepening the factional fissures.
The strategy adopted by the party chairman appeared to be one that showed Mr. George his isolation in the party and that sent a message to the Joseph loyalists that their demands were too unrealistic to be acceded under the current political ambience.
According to the KC(M) leaders , the general feeling was that in spite of the infighting, all of them would flock around the chairman in the party’s struggle against the two major issues confronting the organisation: the fall in price of natural rubber and other hill produce and the situation emerging out of the recommendations of the K. Kasturirangan commission on Western Ghats conservation.
“Even members from the Joseph group contributed to the discussions which followed the arguments over P.C. George,” they said.
However, with the party forums now made out of reach for them, the Joseph loyalists appear to have taken the issue out in the street.
The resentment over what they believe yet another case of complete let down on the part of Mr. Mani is evident.
They also have enough issues to take up, to effect a split. Above all, they have the option to part ways but remain within the UDF umbrella.
However, a reality check on their part may hold them back from taking the extreme step unilaterally. One of the key factors could be the attitude of the Catholic Church, which had played a key role in the KC(M) unification effort, on the issue. But the most important consideration could be their own estimation of the way splinter groups are being treated by the big brothers in both the major coalitions in the State.
As such, ultimately it is not unlikely that they would come to the conclusion that after all, in the long run, size matters in coalition politics.