Mani leads the fight from the front

George Jacob

KOTTAYAM: The electorate of the Pala constituency have cast their vote on only one issue in Assembly elections: K. M. Mani. Ever since its formation in 1964, the main issue, the contestant and winner at Pala was Mani, now seeking his 11th consecutive term.

Mani C. Kappan, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader, is taking on Mr. Mani from the Left this time, while Jayasooryan has been fielded by the BJP. Others in the fray are Siby N. Aykara, V. A. Sunny, K. T. Mathew Paul and Thankachan of the BSP.

For his followers, Mr. Mani is Moses and Ceaser rolled into one - he leads the fight from the front and holds his men together. In the long journey that covers four decades of Kerala's political history, Mr. Mani has prepared economic policies for both the Left and the Right; preceded Gorbachev's Peristroika with the Theory of Toiling Class and led the Chinese in the call for Asian Economic Community. His may be a regional party, but they have global vision. He has presented the largest number of Budgets in the Kerala Assembly - eight of them; and has been a member of 11 Ministries. Critics say such records are the result of political opportunism. But, for his followers, a record is a record .

This does not mean politics had been a roller-coaster ride all the way for Mr. Mani. In fact, his first elections in 1965 as a Kerala Congress candidate, remained abortive. He had taken on the Congress candidate Aleykutty Thomas, the wife of the highly respected Congress leader R. V. Thomas.

The Congress was routed to the third place. The first major challenge came in 1970 when the Congress fielded M. M. Jacob, but Mr. Mani scraped through with a margin of 364 votes, his lowest ever. Ever since the realignment of the UDF in 1982, the Congress has reconciled itself to this phenomenon called K. M. Mani. It was left to the Left to find the sacrificial goat for every Assembly elections and pray for miracles.

Miracle did happen in Pala once. In the 2004 Parliament elections, his son and the Kerala Congress (M) candidate Jose K. Mani was defeated by the former KC(M) MP P. C. Thomas in the Moovattupuzha Parliament constituency . The junior Mani trailed behind in his own booth, the grama panchayat and the Assembly segment. What he lost in the Parliament elections, Mr. Mani regained during the local body elections that followed, but the myth of infallibility was shaken.

Mr.Mani C. Kappan, former volleyball star-turned film producer-turned businessman-turned politician, bases his poll strategies on the new equations reached during the 2004 Parliament elections. Rather than political issues, it is the strategy to bring back all anti-Mani factors under one banner, which is being worked out in Pala by the Left. And the electorate of the Pala constituency are once again being asked to vote on the only issue on which they had cast their vote all these years: K. M. Mani.

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