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Rumblings Within Kerala Congress (M)

Thomas Chazhikaden attempts to soothe PJ Joseph’s ruffled feathers as CPM muddies the waters

Thomas Chazhikaden, the Lok Sabha candidate from Kottayam for Kerala Congress (Mani), an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), is unfazed about the rumblings in his party over his candidature.

The CPI-M has fielded its District Secretary and former legislator VN Vasavan from Kottayam.

Chazhikaden, 66, a four-time legislator who lost the Assembly polls in 2011 and 2016, is a senior leader of the Kerala Congress (Mani), the third biggest ally of the UDF.

Trouble broke out after KM Mani, the leader of the party, announced Chazhikaden will be fielded from Kottayam, much to the displeasure of PJ Joseph, the veteran legislator and Working Chairman of Kerala Congress (Mani) who was eyeing the seat.

“I am going to meet Joseph to discuss the issue. We are all sure that things will be back to normal very soon,” said Chazhikaden, a chartered accountant by profession who kicked off his election campaign on Tuesday.

The Kerala Congress (Mani) wanted two seats in the Lok Sabha elections but the demand was shot down by the Congress following which Joseph expressed his desire to be the lone candidate from his party.

But on Monday night, Mani, his son and Rajya Sabha member Jose K Mani and other party leaders announced that Chazhikaden will contest the polls.

Jose K Mani had won from Kottayam in 2009 and 2014 but he quit last year after being nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Since then the seat has been vacant.

Congress leaders have got into damage control mode and are holding talks with Joseph to amicably resolve the issue.

“Even though this is an internal matter of their party, the UDF leadership will talk to both their leaders. We are confident of resolving the issue,” said Oommen Chandy, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Kerala.

Meanwhile, Monce K Joseph, a Kerala Congress (Mani) legislator and a close aide to Joseph, said the recent developments have pained a large number of people.

“We are all waiting for the UDF leadership to intervene because the decision to field Chazhikaden goes against the decision taken by the appointed committee of our party. We fail to understand how this new decision suddenly came up,” he said.

Joseph was an ally of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) until 2010 when he quit and merged his party with the Kerala Congress (Mani).

Giving enough indications that the LDF might again accommodate Joseph, CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “It is Joseph who has to decide if he wants to be with the Kerala Congress (Mani). As and when he decides to quit, we can take things forward from there.”

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