The Election Commission has temporarily frozen the 'two leaves' symbol of the Kerala Congress (Mani) as it is inquiring into the dispute between two factions claiming ownership of the party, a senior EC official said on Thursday.
"Based on the representation received from one of the factions of KC(M) led by Jose K Mani, which apprehended that the other faction led by P J Joseph may misuse the symbol for the ensuing polls, the Commission has decided to freeze the symbol till January 20 when the next hearing is scheduled," an EC official said.
Sources said if no decision is taken on the dispute on January 20, the order to freeze the symbol may be extended.
The order has been issued under clause 15 of The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
Jose Mani, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Kerala and son of KC (M) founder K M Mani, confirmed to PTI that he had indeed made the request to the EC to freeze the symbol "for the time being" to prevent the other faction from misusing it in the ensuing polls.
The full commission -- Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra -- began the hearing into the dispute on Monday. Both the factions are claiming that they represent the original KC(M) after the death of K M Mani in April, 2019. Mani was also a former minister of Kerala.
P J Joseph, who is the KC (M) MLA from Thodupuzha, is heading the other faction and is the party's working chairman.
KC (M) is the third largest partner of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF). After K M Mani's death Jose Mani anointed himself as the new chairman antagonising Joseph.
Party sources said the EC should bring an end to the dispute at the earliest as the Assembly by-election to Kuttanad in Alappuzha district is due and so are the polls to the local bodies.
The vacancy in Kuttanad was caused due to the death of MLA and NCP state president Thomas Chandy (72) on December 20, 2019. As per the rules, the seat has to be filled up within six months. NCP is part of the ruling LDF in Kerala.