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UDF Pala by-poll candidate awaited as Mani factions joust

camera_altJose K Mani and PJ Joseph (file photos)

Kottayam:  The Congress-led UDF (United Democratic Front) is struggling to name candidate for the September 23 Pala Assembly by-election as the Kerala Congress (Mani) factions are yet to sort the differences out.

The by-election has been necessitated by death of Kerala Congress (Mani) veteran K.M. Mani in April. Mani represented the constituency since 1967.

After Mani's death, the party split into two factions -- one led by his son and Rajya Sabha member Jose K. Mani and the other by P.J. Joseph.

Mani junior who claims control of the party has two legislators with him, and Joseph has three, including himself. The point of contention between them is the party chairman's post.

Joseph is adamant to be the chairman and allow Mani junior to decide the candidate. But the latter wants to be chairman as well as name the candidate. Mani junior and his coterie want the seat for his wife Nisha Jose Mani.

"No names are being discussed. The only criterion for selection is the winnability factor," said Joseph, when asked if he would support Nisha's candidature.

Mani junior's close aide and party legislator Roshy Augustine said the only criterion was that the candidate should figure in the electoral roll.

The UDF leadership is gearing up for Sunday's meeting in Kottayam, to be chaired by former chief minister Oommen Chandy, and is certain to settle the issue. "All things will be settled tomorrow," said UDF convenor and Congress MP Benny Behanan.

Meanwhile, on Saturday NCP leader and film producer Mani C. Kappen, 63, filed his nomination papers for the fourth consecutive time. The BJP-led NDA is also expected to name the candidate soon.

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