With just a couple of days left for a court in Idukki to pronounce its judgement on the leadership dispute in the Kerala Congress (M), the stage is now set for another round of fireworks with a meeting of the party steering committee convened by Jose K. Mani mounting a full-scale attack on party working chairman P.J. Joseph for its embarrassing defeat in Pala.
The steering committee meeting, held in Kottayam on Sunday, attributed the unwarranted controversies raked up by the Joseph faction as the prime reason for the party’s setback in the Pala byelection. It further decided to review the loss down to the booth level and launch an action plan to improve the mass base.
Elaborating on the meeting, Mr. Mani, in a Facebook post on Monday, said Mr. Joseph had prepared the ground for the United Democratic Front (UDF) defeat in Pala much before the coalition decided on its candidate.
According to Mr. Mani, the UDF had entrusted him to decide on the party candidate at a meeting also attended by Mr. Joseph, while the candidature of Jose Tom was officially announced at a UDF leadership meeting held at the Kottayam District Congress Committee office on September 1.
“Attending the meeting, Mr. Joseph too had approved the decision and expressed his willingness to allot the party symbol. However, a letter that he had served on the EC earlier stated that a meeting of the party steering committee on August 26 decided neither to field its candidate nor to allot the party symbol to anyone else. Thus, he cheated the UDF leadership as well as those who attended the bilateral discussions in Kottayam,” Mr. Mani said.
While raising a demand to dismiss the nomination of Mr. Tom, the Joseph faction had also presented a copy of this letter before the Election Returning Officer.
The outburst by Mr. Mani forms the backdrop of a parliamentary party meeting convened by Mr. Joseph. An earlier notice served by Mr. Joseph for holding the meeting had met with stiff resistance from Roshy Augustine and N. Jayaraj, the party legislators who owe allegiance to the Mani group.
According to Mons Joseph, MLA, a leader of the Joseph faction, the meeting is most likely to be held on November 1 as a court in Idukki is slated to pronounce its judgment on the leadership dispute in KC(M) on October 30. “The time and venue of the meeting will be duly communicated to all KC(M) legislators and those who choose to stay away should be prepared to face its consequences as well,” he said.
Adding to the factional rivalry, Mr. Joseph recently toughened his stance on taking over the post of the Changanassery municipal chairman from the Mani faction in accordance with a power-sharing agreement brokered by the UDF.