The Kerala Congress (Mani) with six legislators, currently sitting as an independent bloc in the Kerala Assembly, is being wooed by the Congress to return to the United Democratic Front (UDF), even as the Communist Party of India (CPI) says there is no place for it in the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).
On Friday, the Congress party made its overture to him, with former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy saying they would be glad if Mani returns to the UDF.
"Even though no talks in this respect have commenced, there is a strong feeling in the UDF that Mani should return to the UDF. This is our wish and Mani now has to take the call," said Chandy.
In August 2016, the KC (M) led by veteran legislator KM Mani decided to leave the UDF, which they were part of for close to over three decades. Mani had said he was leaving because a section in the Congress party was responsible for the rout of the UDF in the May 2016 assembly polls.
Mani was under a cloud over the infamous bar scam case when a bar owner had alleged that he had paid Mani Rs one crore to reopen closed down bars in 2014. Following a huge onslaught by the then Left opposition, after an adverse remark from the Kerala High Court, Mani stepped down in November 2015.
Ever since Mani left the UDF, the CPI (M) has been eyeing his party. Now, the bar scam case appears to have settled down, with the Vigilance probing the case on Wednesday submitting a preliminary report saying that there was no evidence to implicate Mani.
For the past two days, the CPI (M) leadership has started giving clear signals that Mani is no longer the 'bad boy' in Kerala politics.
While the CPI (M) overtly and otherwise has expressed that Mani should join the LDF, the CPI has always been against this. On Friday, CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said that while there is no bar on former Left allies (Janata Dal-U) to return, there is "no space for new allies".
"The Reserve Bank of India has 66 note counting machines and Mani also has one such machine. (At the height of the bar scam, there were widespread reports that Mani was using a counting machine to count all the currency notes that he got as bribe). Also the LDF is not a ventilator to parties, that are on the death bed. Already we have a very good majority and we are not looking for new allies," said Rajendran.
Mani has six legislators and his son Jose K. Mani is the Lok Sabha member from Kottayam. Mani has denied that the UDF has offered him the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat, if he fears that his son might not win from Kottayam for the third time.
"Who is saying all this and why should we ask for the Wayanad seat, when Kottayam is safe with us? I don't have anything to say on this," said Mani.
Already the Janata Dal(U) led by media baron MP Veerendra Kumar left the UDF last week and they have been given the nod by the CPI (M) to return to the LDF.
Mani holds prominence in constituencies like Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Kozhikode and Wayanad, which are presently held by the Congress.
"Mani as soon as he gets cleared in the bar scam case, will join the LDF," said a top leader in the know of things to IANS, but did not wish to be identified.