Kerala

Jose K. Mani barred from attending UDF meetings

Unclear picture: Kerala Congress(M) leader Jose K. Mani greeting Kottayam district panchayat president Sebastian Kulathungal before addressing the media on Monday.

Unclear picture: Kerala Congress(M) leader Jose K. Mani greeting Kottayam district panchayat president Sebastian Kulathungal before addressing the media on Monday.   | Photo Credit: JOMON PAMPAVALLEY

Decision on his continuation tomorrow

The United Democratic Front (UDF) on Monday said the Jose K. Mani faction in the Kerala Congress (M) had lost the right to continue in the coalition.

At a hastily convened press conference, UDF convener Benny Behanan, MP, said Mr. Mani had repeatedly ignored the ultimatum demanding that his group vacate the presidentship of the Kottayam district panchayat in favour of a nominee of the side led by party chairman P.J. Joseph.

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The Joseph faction had threatened to move a no-confidence motion against the president if Mr. Mani did not accommodate his demand.

He had earlier blamed the Mani camp for the loss of the Pala seat to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) among other grievances.

Mr. Behanan said Mr. Mani had accorded no value for the UDF decision. He had publicly denied it. Mr. Mani was not entitled to attend coalition meetings until further directives.

UDF leaders would meet again on Wednesday to decide on Mr. Mani’s future in the alliance. Mr. Behanan pointedly desisted from stating that Mr. Mani was not part of the UDF any more. However, the UDF has disinvited Mr. Mani from the top conference.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappally Ramachandran, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy were present at the meeting that preceded Mr. Behanan’s pronouncement. A party insider said the leaders had talked to other alliance partners, including the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leadership, on the phone.

Shout slogans

Mr. Behanan’s words prompted scores of Mani loyalists to flock to the KC(M) State committee office in Kottayam. They swamped the premises and shouted slogans in support of party founder K.M. Mani. Stephen K. George, a Mani backer, said the party headquarters remained firmly in the control of the group.

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Mr. Mani later arrived at the office to a rousing reception by his supporters. Flanked by loyalist Roshy Augustine, MLA, Mr. Mani reminded journalists of the political legacy of his father, one of the founding members of the UDF. The current UDF leadership had done Mani’s memory wrong, Mr. Mani said, portraying himself as a victim of injustice. Some persons had arm-twisted the Congress leadership into taking the flawed decision, he said.

Concern in UDF

By some accounts, there was mounting concern in the UDF whether alienating Mr. Mani permanently would mar the coalition’s prospects in the coming local body elections in Central Travancore, where both factions of the KC(M) have significant influence.

Moreover, there were also reports that not everybody in the top Congress leadership was on the same page regarding the decision to put Mr. Mani on notice. At least one leader had asked how the UDF could ask the faction, which is part of the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre, to stay away from coalition meetings. Few leaders felt that there was still scope for rapprochement between the feuding groups.

The LDF has responded somewhat cryptically to the development. M.V. Govindan, a member on the central committee of the CPI(M), told journalists that the LDF was not an open house or an inn for stragglers.

Mr. Mani later arrived at the office to a rousing reception by his supporters.

Any accommodation in the alliance would hinge on the political programme of the aspirant. He said the ouster of Mr. Mani was a precursor to the impending collapse of the UDF. A. Vijayaraghavan, LDF convener, said the situation in the UDF was still fluid for him to make a statement.

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 10:25:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/jose-k-mani-barred-from-attending-udf-meetings/article31949075.ece

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