KOTTAYAM: After days of meetings and discussions, the Kerala Congress (M) on Friday night announced that its leader Jose K Mani will be the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) for the Rajya Sabha elections. "Our party leadership that met here on Friday night has decided to nominate Jose K.Mani to the Rajya Sabha. The party felt that he was the most suitable candidate and hence his name was a unanimous choice," PJ Joseph, the KC-M's second in command said.
The decision to field Mani as the candidate to the Upper House was taken at the meeting of KC(M) leaders in Pala near Kottayam. Jose K Mani, son of K M Mani, is currently the party's lone member in Lok Sabha from Kottayam parliamentary constituency.
The decision was announced hours after the party led by veteran leader KM Mani rejoined the UDF after a two-year hiatus as the Congress decided to support its candidate for the Rajya Sabha election. Sacrificing the seat for KC(M) seems like a gift from the Congress-UDF combine to the allies for their return.
The seat is currently held by Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurian of the Congress who will retire on July 1 but was expecting to get a fourth successive term.
Of the three Rajya Sabha seats that are falling vacant this month, the Left will contest on two seats and only one seat is with the Congress-led UDF alliance. The decision means that the lone seat for the Congress-led UDF alliance has been given to the allies who have returned to the fold.
However, the Congress's decision to spare the Rajya Sabha seat for KC(M) candidate has not gone down well with a section of the party. The state Congress's former president VM Sudheeran did not attend the UDF meeting, insisting the development would weaken the main opposition party and benefit the BJP. The decision, he said, lacked transparency and party workers were left disappointed and
called it "suicidal".
Long-time foe of Mani, veteran legislator PC George also called it 'the most shameful episode' witnessed in Kerala politics as everyone knows that Jose stands no chance of winning his sitting Lok Sabha seat next year and hence Mani felt that the Rajya Sabha would be the best bet for his son. "Since the law allows six months time for an elected member to take oath, Jose will wait for that time and after that, there will not be any time for conducting a by-election to the Kottayam seat that he vacates," he claimed.
The KC(M) had walked out of the Congress-led UDF in August, 2016, ending over three-decade-long association alleging it was being "insulted" by the party leading the alliance. Relations between the two parties had soured over the bar bribery scam, and the rift widened after Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala attended the betrothal ceremony of the daughter of controversial hotelier Biju Ramesh and the son of Congress leader and former minister Adoor Prakash. Ramesh, the working president of the Kerala State Bar Hotel Owners Association, had levelled bribery charges against Mani when he was the finance minister.
After it snapped ties with the Congress nearly two years ago, the KC(M) has maintained that it was keeping equidistance from the UDF, the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front, as also the BJP, which is trying to create a sustainable political space for itself in the southern state. The KC(M), however, extended support to the UDF candidates in all the three by-polls held in the state since it left the alliance.
Besides Kurian, those retiring are CP Narayanan of CPI(M) and Joy Abraham of the Kerala Congress.