KOTTAYAM: Internal strife in the Kerala Congress (M), which had surfaced shortly before the general elections over its candidate in the Kottayam constituency, appears to be escalating even as informal talks began to elect the party’s new chairman and parliamentary party leader following the demise of K M Mani.
Seven district presidents owing allegiance to Mani faction met the party’s deputy chairman C F Thomas and general secretary (holding organisational charges) Joy Abraham on Sunday and are learnt to have raised a demand to elevate vice-chairman Jose K Mani as chairman.
Interestingly, the development has happened at a time when the preliminary talks within the party focused on electing PJ Joseph as the parliamentary party leader and promoting Thomas as the new chairman. Sources said the Mani faction wants to retain both positions, with Thomas the new parliamentary leader.
Both CF Thomas and Joy Abraham expressed dissatisfaction over the district leaders’ unprecedented move. Joy sent back the delegation saying ensuring unity is the greatest tribute the party can give to Mani at this point of time.
Thomas is learnt to have said he would act in the best interests of KC(M).
He told Express he was trying to bring consensus in the party, adding he was confident of achieving it.
“All issues will be settled amicably as the people’s wish is to avoid any more split in the party,” he said.
Sources said the apprehensions over the position of Jose post the party’s restructuring at its helm have forced the district presidents to make the move.
“As Mani’s heir apparent, Jose undoubtedly should get a deserving position in the party. When Thomas and Joseph become chairman and parliamentary leader respectively, Jose should also be promoted. But some leaders fear Jose is likely to be sidelined in the process which might have forced them to come up with such a demand,” said a KC(M) leader.
Meanwhile, Jose said party leadership would discuss and elect chairman without delay. He added there were no discussions on who should be the next chairman.
Party working chairman Joseph said he did not think both positions would be taken by Mani faction in a party that stands united, perhaps hinting about a possible split in such an eventuality.
He also dismissed the district presidents’ demand stating the party’s concerned forums will take a decision in this regard. He dismissed the development as a storm in a teapot.
KC(M) mouthpiece the other day had alleged in an article that Joseph did not stand by Mani when the bar bribery issue had come up and refused to resign along with the latter after it escalated. Joseph faction sees both the developments as a purported move to sideline it. The group is closely watching the outcome of the ongoing informal talks before deciding on the next step.