Things do not seem to have settled between the two Kerala Congress factions in Kerala. For the by poll to the assembly seat of Pala that fell vacant on the death of the then Kerala Congress chairman KM Mani, the last date for filing nominations is today, but the heated dispute within the party about the choice of the party's electroral symbol has been giving a headache to not only Kerala Congress, but the entire United Democratic Front (UDF) whose constituent Kerala Congress is. Even if a last minute solution is found on the choice of symbol, the related issues are bound to linger.
In the faction fight within the party, Jose K Mani, son of KM Mani and member of Rajya Sabha who got himself accepted as the father's heir for the party's leadership is leading one faction. On the other side is party's working chairman PJ Joseph. The tussle between the two factions is trespassing all norms of political decorum and ethics. Even as Joseph asserts that being a partner of the UDF his party will lend support to the candidate chosen by the front, he has taken a stance that the party's electoral symbol of 'two leaves' will not be allotted to the candidate Jose Tom.
The explanation given by PJ Joseph for his stance is that Jose Tom was once expelled from the party and could therefore be considered only as an independent candidate. At the same, Jose Tom has been claiming that the symbol was not an issue for him and his symbol was Mani himself, but the possibility of his losing the poll cannot be ruled out. Further, Jose K Mani and his group are aware of the implications in the case of his winning as an independent. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, has been trying several formulae in his eagerness to keep both factions within the alliance, but it is clear that things are not moving towards a satisfactory conclusion. As for the rival Left front, although they follow a wait and see policy, there is no reason why they should not play the tactics necessary to extricate either of the factions to its fold if an opportune time comes. After all, it was when PJ Joseph's group was co-existing within LDF with no particular issues that due to certain clever moves, Joseph left the alliance and went along with Mani, thereby becoming part of UDF.
Kerala Congress is a party that claims to be a mvoement of farmers, but it will take an ardous research to find out what role it has played in solving the problems and hardships of farmers. All the same, it is an undeniable fact that ever since its formation in the 60s, Kerala Congress has been in the forefront of protecting the interests of the Christian community of central Travancore and the churches that lead and control that community. True, it cannot be termed an offence if minority communities organize themselves politically, fight and clamour for the protection of the essence of India's constitution that grants minorities equal rights and freedoms. Especially so in the current circumstances when the propensity to deny constitutional rights unilaterally is gaining strength.
An oft-floated theory is that the minorities organizing by themselves and separately is not the desirable course, but instead they should join national parties for the same goals. However, as experience has proven, in practice efforts in that direction have enirely failed. That being so, one cannot discount the model in which religious minorities co-exist, or even unite with secular parties at the same time forming separate political bodies to protect their own identity and uniqueness and to win their constitutional rights. Viewed in that perspective, the Christian background of Kerala Congress can pass muster. It is also notable that during the five and a half decades of its existence since its formation, allegation of communalism has not been raised against that party.
However, at the root of the current tug-of-war and haggling that has long plagued Kerala Congress lies the dynasty politics which has become the bane of Indian politics. Although the epithet of the party as one that 'grows as it splits and splits as it grows' has been assigned to it by the very people reponsible for such splits, it appears that such characteristics have never come to light in such an unseemly fashion as now. KM Mani departed after ensuring for his son a Lok Sabha berth first and when that could not continue, a place in Rajya Sabha. Now the insistence of his son when the assembly seat fell vacant on his becoming Rajya Sabha member that it should be given to his spouse, the obstinacy that the party's reins should be in his hands, and the intransigence not to wait even a bit for all this – these are the factors that clearly made the party's crisis this complicated. Although PJ Joseph was successful in deferring the first goal, for the latter target as per current circumstances he is not sure to repeat that success by thwarting Jose's ambition. Instead, the course of events appear to precipitate yet another split in the party. Although a political game can be stemmed if UDF and LDF have a firm intention, they will not come forward to do that, driven as they are with temporary gains. A fact too plain to miss.