The Mani and Joseph factions of the Kerala Congress (M) drifted further apart, frustrating the attempts of the United Democratic Front (UDF) leadership to bring about an amicable settlement to its unseemly internal squabble and to retain the solidarity of the coalition.
The day witnessed intense lobbying by senior Kerala Congress (M) leader P.J. Joseph, who along with his close aides Mons Joseph and T.U. Kuruvilla met senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy and Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala seeking their intervention to get a fair deal in the Kerala Congress (M). At the other end, party vice chairman Jose K. Mani categorically ruled out the question of changing the decision to field Thomas Chazhikkadan in Kottayam
Mr. Joseph and his team held a joint meeting, which included KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran, during which various options were considered. One option which was ruled out in the initial stages itself was engineering a split in the Kerala Congress (M). Besides, a split would also attract the provisions of the anti-defection law.
Mr. Joseph apparently was banking on the goodwill he had generated with the UDF leaders for being the bulwark against K.M. Mani’s plans to ally with the LDF. His appeal for the intervention of the UDF for a fair deal translated to extending him support in the event of his having to quit the Kerala Congress (M).
Senior Congress leaders are confident that the rift in the Kerala Congress (M) can be resolved and the formula will be acceptable to both the factions. But they did not indicate whether talks will be initiated with the leaders of the Mani faction. They expect to settle issues ahead of the next meeting of the scrutiny committee on Friday.
Discussions will be resumed after Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s visit on Thursday. The candidate selection process had been stalled owing to the internal issues in the Kerala Congress (M). The Congress will have to rework its strategy now that the Kerala Congress(M) has named its candidate from Kottayam seat.