In a late night drama evolving in Kerala politics, Congress ally Kerala Congress (Mani), or KC(M), party chairman K.M. Mani on Monday night announced his loyalist, Thomas Chazhikadan, to contest from Kottayam seat, against the dreams of a factional leader within his party, P.J. Joseph.
Mani's move risks an implosion within the party as Joseph had publicly said that he wants to contest from Kottayam.
Joseph told reporters that he is "heavily disappointed" with the decision and expressed hope that it will be amended. "We will discuss it with the Congress leaders, who will return from Delhi tomorrow. Will decide future steps after that," he said.
But Joseph group leaders confirmed to Mint that their leader may leave the party in protest, splitting KC(M) into two.
The quagmire between the two leaders and the potential implosion of KC(M) not only risks the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) of a rebel candidate in a crucial constituency, but also of losing support of two MLAs in the assembly-- Joseph and his faction's leader Mons Joseph.
Joseph has been demanding a seat in the Lok Sabha contest ever since Mani's son Jose K. Mani was nominated to Rajya Sabha recently on a Congress ticket.
KC(M) has been tradionally given only one seat, Kottayam, to contest within the UDF, where usually Mani would field one of his loyalists. Joseph first argued to raise the number of seats to two, but that was turned down by Congress. Then he shifted his demand to be fielded from Kottayam, but Mani was opposed to part away his stronghold.
Speaking to reporters, Mani maintained that Joseph will keep his peace and agree to the party's decision.
"I've nominated on Thomas Chazhikadan to justify the sentiments of my party workers. They were against giving the seat to Joseph," he said.
The KC(M) is the third biggest ally of UDF in Kerala. The Joseph group was part of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) as a separate faction until 2010, when it merged with KC(M) and allied to the Congress. Mint had reported last week that the Communists are also trying to woo Joseph to return to LDF.