The United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership attempted to present a united face on Monday even as a closed-door meeting of its liaison committee sought to heal the differences within the coalition.
P.K. Kunhalikutty, general secretary of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), led the efforts to take the edge off the bitter factional feuds in the Kerala Congress (M) and the Kerala Congress (Jacob). He reminded the leaders that the UDF could ill afford to lose a second Assembly byelection in a row.
The Congress and the IUML felt that the open fight between Jose K. Mani and P.J. Joseph over candidate selection and election symbol had brought about the UDF’s defeat in Pala. A defeat in Kuttanad and a poor show in the local body polls will dishearten the rank and file in the run-up to the Assembly elections in 2021.
By some accounts, Anoop Jacob of the KC(Jacob) demanded that Johnny Nellore, who parted ways with him and aligned with Mr. Joseph, not be allowed to attend the liaison committee meeting in his capacity as party secretary.
The Congress and IUML leaders also engaged Mr. Joseph and Mr. Mani in discussions.
UDF convener Benny Behanan reportedly hoped the KC(M) would be ready for a rethink on the Kuttanad seat.
On ceding Kuttanad
Several leaders felt the UDF stood a better chance of winning if the KC(M) would cede the seat to the Congress. The UDF will meet again in Kochi on February 29 to discuss the matter.
KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran said Congress leaders were in lockstep with each other to take the electoral fight to the Left Democratic Front camp.
Later at a press conference, Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala sought to refocus attention on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the damning the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General on police purchases.