Thiruvananthapuram, May 11 (IANS) The Kerala Congress (Mani), the third biggest party in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), is yet to name a new party chief after the death of its founder and chieftain K.M. Mani last month.
Mani, 86, died on April 9 after battling a lung ailment. Mani had joined the undivided Kerala Congress in 1965 and went on to become its undisputed leader. The coming days will reveal if the party will witness a smooth transition.
Over the years, the party underwent several splits. There are as many as seven parties with the Kerala Congress tag. All were part of the Kerala Congress at this or that point of time.
Currently, the office-bearers in Mani’s party include Working Chairman P.J. Joseph, Deputy Chairman C.F. Thomas and Vice-Chairman and Rajya Sabha member Jose K. Mani, son of late Mani.
Till now, things have remained quiet, as according to Catholic traditions rituals are performed till the 41st day of the death.
However, the rival party factions, including the erstwhile faction of Joseph who merged his party with that of Mani in 2010, have started campaigning for their leaders.
Also, after Mani’s death the number of party legislators has come down to five. Of this, C.F. Thomas, Roshy Augustine and N. Jayaraj belong to the Mani faction, and P.J. Joseph and Mons Joseph to the Joseph faction.
While the top leaders in the Mani faction want Mani junior to become the chairman, the Joseph faction wants him (Joseph) to be elevated to the post. Joseph and those closer to C.F. Thomas are unwilling to accept Mani as chairman as he is junior to them.
According to the party constitution, a chairman is elected by the state committee.
Mons Joseph said on Saturday they were waiting for the 41-day mourning to get over and after that the party would take stock of the situation.
The first signs of all not being well surfaced on Friday when an article in the party publication blamed Joseph for causing uneasiness to an unwell Mani by throwing tantrums.
As part of the UDF Lok Sabha seat-sharing formula, the Congress contested 16 seats, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) two, and the Kerala Congress (Mani) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) one each.
During the candidate selection process, Joseph wanted the seat to go to a person of his choice, but that was shot down by Mani and his son.
Joseph then threatened to contest himself. But as Mani’s health deteriorated and doctors informed Joseph about the seriousness of the ailment, he decided not trouble Mani in his last days.
Rejecting the claims made in the article, Mani junior said he would conduct a probe as how such a baseless article appeared in the party organ.
Given the nature of the Kerala Congress, the most oft-repeated sentence, which is attributed to Mani himself, is: “We are a party that splits as we grow and grow as we split.”
Whether this statement is going to be true, even after his death, will be known when the new chairman is named.