Kottayam: Kerala Congress (Mani), an influential political outfit in Kerala, is at a crossroads with the death of its supremo KM Mani. The death of the party chairman and legislator from the Pala constituency has posed three new immediate challenges to the regional outfit which calls shots in parts of south-central Kerala.
The party which was roiled by factional fights just ahead of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls will now have to find a new party chairman, its legislative party leader in the Kerala Assembly and a candidate for the Pala legislative constituency which was represented by Mani for over half a century.
These tasks will not be easy considering the current tension between the factions of Mani and veteran leader P J Joseph who was recently in a mood of rebellion after he was denied a Lok Sabha ticket for himself.
The past chairmen of the party were its founding leader KM George, K Narayana Kurup, O Lukose, E John Jacob, KV Kurien, George J Mathew, VT Sebastian, PJ Joseph and CF Thomas.
Any claim to chairmanship had created its share of troubles within the party earlier too.
KM George had stepped down once he became minister and ‘no dual responsibility’ clause was introduced in the party. CF Thomas did the same later on.
Joseph broke away from the party first over denial of chairmanship. Currently, Joseph is the working chairman, CF Thomas deputy chairman and Jose K Mani, the son of the departed leader, the vice-chairman.
Though a decision on the candidate for the Pala bypoll can wait, a decision on the new party chairman should be immediate.
Mani faction wants Jose K Mani to succeed his father. Joseph, however, could demand the position claiming seniority. His group might ask for the post in return for the denied Lok Sabha seat too.
Mani group has the upper hand in the party committees. They argue that Jose K Mani led the Kerala Yatra as a precursor to taking over party reigns.
Equally pivotal will be the role of alliance leader. Pala seat, retained by Mani for 54 years, is unlikely to go out of the grips of Karingozhakal House. Jose K Mani has another five years to go in his Rajya Sabha term. He may not give it up since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance of which the Kerala Congress (Mani) is a constituent nationally, does not have enough strength to get another candidate win a Rajya Sabha election soon whenever a vacancy arises in the Upper House of the Parliament.
It will be interesting to see how Joseph group, which gave up Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha seats in the last one year, responds to the new in-party climate after the demise of its tallest leader early this week.