On a day marked by hectic political activity, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) partner Kerala Congress (Joseph) decided to pull out of the ruling front and take forward its efforts in merging with the United Democratic Front (UDF) partner Kerala Congress (M).

Talking to presspersons after the crucial State committee meeting here on Friday, Mr. Jospeh declared his decision to resign his Cabinet post as Minister for Pubic Works.

Earlier in the day, party rebels under the leadership of P.C. Thomas convened a ‘State committee meeting' of their own and expelled Mr. Joseph from the party for his anti-party activities. They elected Mr. Thomas as party's secretary general in his place.

Mr. Joseph said the “party had made efforts to resolve the confusions and conflicts cropped up in the education sector during the past four years. However, there has been no progress in taking remedial measures or to clarify the apprehensions on account of the steps taken by the State government.”

A resolution adopted at the meeting alleged that neither the coalition nor the government was prepared to resolve the issues taking the Kerala Congress into confidence. Such unprecedented policies followed by the LDF government had created fissure in the coalition relations, the resolution noted. It also said that the failure on this front had generated antagonism among party activists, followers, and well wishers.

According to the resolution, another major consideration was the unity of the Kerala Congress groups for the formation of a strong regional force.

According to Mr. Joseph, there would not be any action against Mr. Thomas and his group as they had moved out of the party on their own. “For the past few years, they were keeping away from mainstream party activities,” he said.

Mr. Joseph denied the involvement of the Catholic Church hierarchy in the merger moves. According to him, such allegations were usual ones being raised at moments like this. To another question, he said 95 per cent of the party activists were with him in the unity efforts and added that 13 of the district presidents were present at Friday's meeting.

Rebel meeting

The rebels who met under the leadership of Mr. Thomas in the morning alleged that the party had been an indispensable part of the LDF for the past two decades and no new development had emerged in the near past to merit the extreme step taken by Mr. Joseph.

They said they would continue in the coalition. They found Mr. Joseph engaging in gross indiscipline by initiating merger moves with the Kerala Congress (M), a partner of the Opposition UDF, and hence the decision to expel him.

Mr. Thomas said those who were bent on destroying the identity of the party by merging with the KC (M) would not be able to make a dent in its support base. “They would not be able to take away the flag, the symbol, the ideology or the official name,” he said.

He alleged that a coterie surrounding Mr. Joseph was responsible for the present merger drama and added that this move was to protect four Assembly seats for themselves. V. Surendran Pillai, MLA, addressed the gathering removing the air of suspense surrounding him on the issue of allegiance. He said Mr. Joseph had the responsibility to explain which actions from the LDF necessitated the sudden decision to quit the coalition.

George Sebastian, general secretary, criticised Mr. Joseph for his alleged breach of assurance to Mr. Thomas when the latter joined the party after disbanding his Indian Federal Democratic Party (IFDP)

More than 200 persons, mostly from the former IFDP participated in the meeting. All district committee presidents except Kottayam district unit chief (who happens to be a former IFDP activist) were conspicuous by their absence. The activists, later, paid homage to the statue of P.T. Chacko in the heart of the town.