Kottayam: The Kerala Congress (Mani), the third biggest ally in the Congress-led UDF, seems to be heading to an inevitable split as the party on Sunday elected Jose K Mani its chairman despite stiff opposition from the faction led by senior leader P J Joseph.
Jose K Mani was elected the party chief at a meeting of the party state committee held here. Leaders belonging to the Joseph faction did not attend the meet.
Jose, a Rajya Sabha MP, later told party men that even though K.M.Mani was not physically present, he was always with them. "We will go forward the way Mani Sir wished," he said.
The meeting came amid bitter factional feud between the rival camps led by working chairman P J Joseph and party founder K M Mani's son Jose K Mani.
Reacting to the development, Joseph said Jose was elected by "a crowd" and not by the state committee and all of them will be treated as having quit the Kerala Congress (M).
The decision would not sustain in law as it was taken by "violating" all norms of the party constitution, he charged.
Hours ahead of the meeting, the faction led by Joseph declared it as 'invalid' and said it was against the party constitution.
However, extending an olive branch, he said those who rectify their 'mistakes' can comeback to the party fold.
Ever since 86-year-old Mani passed away in April, the fight between the two for the top post in the party has been on. It reached a flash point recently when supporters of Joseph and Jose clashed.
As per the party constitution, the new chairman was to be elected at the state committee meeting. Jose K Mani, vice-chairman of the party, convened the state committee meet on his own after Joseph refused to do so.
Earlier, Joseph had said that he had to be made the chairman, Jose K Mani - working chairman and C F Thomas the parliamentary party leader.
Out of 437 state committee members of the party, as many as 325 attended the meeting, the Jose faction leaders claimed.
The Kerala Congress, which has a history of splits since its inception in 1964, has a strong base in the central Travancore belt, especially among Christians.
Senior leaders of the party, including former Rajya Sabha MP Joy Abraham, MLAs C F Thomas and Mons Joseph, did not attend the meeting, sources in the Joseph faction claimed.
Out of five MLAs of the Kerala Congress (M), only two - attended the meeting.
Jose K Mani's followers said KC(M)'s Idukki MLA Roshy Augustine and Kanjirappally MLA N Jayaraj and lone Lok Sabha MP of the party, Thomas Chazhikadan, were the prominent leaders who attended the meeting.
Earlier, K M Mani was the undisputed leader of the party since its formation.
Mani held dual posts - chairman of the party and parliamentary party leader - in the state Assembly.
After Mani's demise, the leaders close to Jose K Mani were not in a mood to allow Joseph, who merged his party with Mani's in 2010, to take over the post of party chairman.