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Jose K Mani’s political nous faces litmus test

KOTTAYAM: Nearly four years after the Kerala Congress (M) — under the leadership of late K M Mani — severed three decades-long ties with the UDF and decided to stay ‘independent’ in the state’s coalition politics, Jose K Mani is following in his father’s footsteps by taking a belligerent stand against the UDF. But this time, Jose is moving out of the coalition not as a party, but as a faction.

For Jose, it is an unceremonious exit as he has virtually been expelled from UDF for not toeing its line. And for the first time, his capability as a political leader is facing a litmus test. Though his followers have thrown their weight behind him after the not-so-unexpected development, Jose has a thorny path ahead under current political circumstances.

Sources close to Jose told TNIE that he is unlikely to take a hasty decision regarding tying up with the CPM-led LDF or the BJP-led NDA, but will remain independent in the state’s coalition politics.“The UDF decision is not unexpected for Jose. In a recent meeting of his close aides and party office-bearers, he had hinted about moving out of the coalition and contesting the upcoming local body polls as an independent party. For the time being, he is unlikely to align with any front,” said a Jose faction leader seeking anonymity.

To continue in UDF, Jose will have to change his stance and give up the Kottayam district panchayat president’s post. Such a move will dampen the morale of his followers, and hence, he is not expected to choose the option.“This is an issue of KC(M)’s self-respect. We will never compromise on that. We won’t cow down to any threats either,” Jose told reporters in Kottayam.

The second option before him is joining the LDF, which also needs several rounds of discussions within the coalition and the party. Though there were unconfirmed reports about the Jose faction’s understanding with the district unit of the CPM, any such move can be made only after the LDF takes a policy decision.
At the same time, the exclusion from the UDF has weakened the bargaining power of Jose and his team, and hence, a ‘decent accommodation’ in the LDF won’t be that easy.

However, with two MPs and two MLAs on their side, the Jose faction continues to believe that they can claim a spot in any coalition. A decision on their future course of action will be taken in the steering committee and high-powered committee meetings slated to be held on Tuesday.

CM’s comment a ray of hope for KC(M)?
Though the LDF camp has not taken an open stand on inviting the Jose K Mani faction to its fold, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s comment on the developments in the UDF over the KC(M) affairs assumes importance. Replying to a query on accommodating Jose in the LDF, the CM asked the Jose faction to announce its stand first. “Political stances are taken depending on the situation. Let them make their stand clear,” he said. Pinarayi also attempted to downplay the possibility of Jose moving to the BJP camp.  “You don’t need to portray them as a party without a stand,” he said.

BJP drops hints that Jose is welcome
While remaining non-committal on inducting Jose K Mani faction into the NDA, BJP on Monday said it was willing to cooperate with anyone who supports the policies of the Narendra Modi government. “The present situation does not warrant an immediate response from our end. Only after Jose K Mani spells out his political stance does a comment from us have any relevance,” BJP state president K Surendran told reporters. He said the party will wait for Jose to clarify his position before reacting on the matter.

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