In a U-turn, the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) on Wednesday said the Kerala Congress (M) faction, led by Jose K Mani, had not been ousted from the alliance but had only been asked to keep away from the meetings.
"The UDF leadership has not ousted anyone from the front. The front had only decided not to allow the Jose faction to participate in the UDF meetings till it accepts the agreement reached by the coalition earlier at the Kottayam district panchayat president post," UDF chairman and leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told reporters after a meeting with the front partners.
Kerala Congress (M) party has two factions, one led by Jose Mani and the other by party working chairman PJ Joseph. As per the agreement, the Jose faction was allowed to hold the post of panchayat president for eight months, and the Joseph faction will then hold the post for the remaining six months of the term.
However, after their term, the Jose faction refused to resign. Controversy arose when the UDF convenor Benny Behanan announced that the front had decided to oust the Jose faction following its refusal to honour the agreement with regard to sharing of the post. Two days later, the UDF backtracked claiming the media misreported the convenorâ€™s statement.
"We have not removed any faction from the front," said Chennithala blaming the media for misreporting. â€œUDF convenor Benny Behanan never ever said that the Kerala Congress (M) faction was expelled, instead he had said that they will not be allowed to take part in future UDF meetings," Chennithala added. It was decided not to allow the Jose faction to participate in any of the UDF meetings, he clarified.
"The moment they agree to implement the UDF decision, the faction will be allowed to take part in the meetings," Chennithala said.
After the death of K M Mani, Kerala Congress (M) supremo and father of Jose K Mani, differences arose between the faction led by Jose, a Rajya Sabha member and the faction led by the veteran politician PJ Joseph over the party leadership.
Although the UDF initially stayed away from the internal matter of the Kerala Congress (M), it had to eventually intervene to bring the two factions together. As both factions were not able to work together, UDF decided to consider them as two separate parties, Chennithala had said.
As per a truce brokered by the UDF, the Jose faction was allowed to hold the post of Kottayam district panchayat president for eight months after which the remaining period would be held by the faction led by P J Joseph, working chairman of the party.
But the Jose faction refused to ask its nominee to resign even after eight months, and openly declared that the pact was not valid.
Describing the Jose faction as an "integral part" of the front, Chennithala said they shared a four-decade-long relationship.
Since the past four months, UDF leaders have been holding talks with the faction but there was no fruitful outcome, he said.
Jose K Mani has described the UDF's ouster as "political injustice" and made it clear that they were not prepared to hold talks with the UDF.
After the latest development, Jose K Mani, a Rajya Sabha MP, told reporters in Kottayam that there was no change in their stand.