Congress reining in coalition partners in Kerala

Congress reining in coalition partners in Kerala

Ramesh Chennithala, the Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Legislative Assembly. (Image courtesy Twitter)

The Congress leadership in Kerala seems to have almost rein in the key coalition partners, the Kerala Congress (M) and Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), who have been pressing for additional seats for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

According to sources in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), a status quo is most likely to be maintained with regard to the seat shares of IUML and KC(M)— two and one respectively.

The Congress that contested in 15 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls may contest in one more constituency, Palakkad.

The Socialist Janatha (Democratic) led by M P Veerendrakumar that contested from the seat in 2014, has now left the UDF. The RSP, another partner in the UDF, will also get its sitting seat Kollam.

Even as the crucial seat-sharing talks are expected to be held on Tuesday, UDF convenor Benny Behanan on Monday said that there was no question of allowing additional seats to any party.

However, the KC(M) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jose K Mani said that the party would insist on two seats.

Sources in the UDF said that the demands being made by the Kerala Congress (M) and the IUML for additional seats were just pressure tactics aimed at getting additional seats for the next Assembly elections.

A faction of the KC(M) led by former minister P J Joseph was mainly insisting on an additional seat, preferably Idukki.

He is learnt to be having a vested interest of paving the way for his son’s entry into politics as well as to scuttle the party chairman K M Mani’s plans to field his daughter-in-law Nisha Jose in KC(M)’s sitting seat Kottayam.

Joseph’s plan was to quit his MLA post and contest in the Lok Sabha elections if the KC(M) gets an additional seat. Later his son would be made a candidate at Thodupuzha Assembly constituency in Idukki district, which Joseph now represents.

It is a stronghold of the Joseph faction, sources said.

Though this plan failed, Joseph could heave a sigh of relief that his pressure tactics could scuttle the party chairman’s plans to field his daughter-in-law to politics as the UDF would insist on a consensus candidate for Kottayam. Even the names of some former judges were learnt to be under consideration for Kottayam now.

Mani’s son Jose K Mani had won from the Kottayam LS constituency in 2014. But the KC(M) left the UDF in 2016 following differences over a bribery case against Mani, who was former finance minister in Kerala.

As part of a pact to bring back the KC(M) to the UDF, the Congress gave one of its Rajya Sabha seats to KC(M) last year, which is now held by Jose K Mani. Hence the Kottayam LS seat is not vacant.

Meanwhile, the Congress also had plans to take over the Kottayam Lok Sabha seat from KC(M) and field former chief minister Oommen Chandy for the seat.

A clarity on the matter is likely to emerge by this week. With pre-poll surveys projecting an upper hand for the Congress in Kerala, the party is trying to have maximum MPs from Kerala by fielding winnable candidates.