KOTTAYAM: After a brief cessation of hostilities within the Kerala Congress (Mani) during the run-up to Monday’s byelection in Pala, which gave the impression that all is well in the party, the torrid factionalism between the Jose K Mani and PJ Joseph factions resumed on polling day itself. The first indication of renewed infighting in the KC(M) was party general secretary and Joseph loyalist Joy Abraham’s all-out attack against Jose K Mani for claiming the legacy of KM Mani. And Joy said it should not be the family, but the KC(M) which is the rightful claimant to the veteran leader’s legacy.
“We are supporters of K M Mani, a master tactician and strategist. He was also a shrewd political leader. But, he was never crooked or deceitful. However, some people are now resorting to crookedness and deceit which may reflect in the byelection as people are watching. The voters in Pala are a refined lot,” he said. Joy said the UDF did not work as a single entity during campaigning. Voicing similar views, fellow Joseph loyalist Saji Manjakadambil said the failure of UDF candidate Jose Tom to contest the election on the KC(M)’s official symbol (two leaves) is likely to bring down the margin of victory.
Dissatisfied with the adverse comment made by Joy which could have influenced the voting pattern, Jose K Mani faction leaders decided to submit a complaint to the UDF leadership. However, Jose K Mani and others exercised restraint while commenting on the issue in a bid to prevent a further escalation of the internal rumblings at least till polling got over. “Anyone who is part of the UDF can’t make such a statement. UDF was united from the top echelons down to the booth level,” said Joseph M Pthusseri, a Jose loyalist.
Meanwhile, the UDF leadership, including Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, Benny Behnan, MP, and Oommen Chandy, are learnt to have conveyed displeasure to the Joseph faction over Joy’s remarks.
Following this, Mons Joseph of the Joseph faction, who sought to play down the development, told reporters in Pala that Joy’s response is linked with inner-party issues. “There is no doubt that the UDF was united in this byelection. He (Joy) didn’t make any comment on the UDF’s functioning,” he said.
The UDF leaders also dismissed Joy’s statement and remained upbeat on emerging victorious in the byelection, which is seen as the dress rehearsal for the five other constituencies scheduled for bypolls next month. “ A UDF victory is certain as we worked unitedly. Joy’s comment was not intentional. He responded when reporters persisted with some questions,” said Chandy.