Kerala

KC(M) rift puts UDF in a spot

Factions field candidates for today’s Kottayam dist. panchayat chief poll

As the Kottayam district panchayat gears up to elect a new president on Wednesday, it has turned out to be the venue for the first direct clash between the warring factions of the Kerala Congess (M).

All seemed settled when KC(M) district president Sunny Thekkedam nominated Sebastian Kulathungal, a member from the Kanjirappally division who owes allegiance to the Mani faction, as its presidential candidate. With the UDF holding 14 out of the 22 seats in the council, Mr. Kulathungal was sure to emerge the winner but for a shock intervention by P.J. Joseph, leader of the opposing faction.

Mr. Joseph, in his capacity as the party's acting chairman, approached the State Election Commission, intimating that he had already withdrawn the power delegated to the party district presidents to issue whips. Later, Mr. Joseph issued a whip on his own to all KC(M) members in the council, seeking to vote for Ajith Muthirama, a member from the Kangazha division.

With the commission maintaining that it would consider the validity of the whip and authority of the person issuing the whip only in case of a petition coming up before it under Section 4 (1) of the Kerala Local Authorities (prohibition of defection) Act 1999, a sense of unease reigns within the UDF.

In its reply, the commission noted that as per Rule 4 (1) of the Kerala Local Authorities (Disqualification of Defected Members) Rules, 2000, the person who is authorised to recommend the party symbol was the competent authority to issue the whip. In case the above authority is delegated to the district presidents of the party and if it is withdrawn, it may be intimated to them also in order to avoid conflicting directions.

Amidst all the confusion, both factions have termed the commission’s response as a victory to their respective sides. Representing the Mani faction, KC(M) general secretary Stephen George maintained that the commission's response was a set back to Mr. Joseph's attempt to mislead the commission as well as the agents. “The sub section 10 of the party constitution’s rule 16 stipulates that any decision pertaining to the party policy requires an approval from the party steering committee,” he said.

Mons Joseph, MLA, on the other hand, held that the commission’s reply indeed asserted Mr. Joseph's authority. “The matter has been conveyed to the UDF and all party members are required to follow the acting chairman's whip,” he said.

Meanwhile, speculations are rife about the Congress fielding its own candidate, if consensus eludes the KC(M) factions. The party, having eight members in the council, stands a chance to win the election even if KC(M) members abstain from voting.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 3:33:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/factionlism-casts-its-shadow-over-panchayat-chiefs-poll/article28689165.ece

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