Mani C Kappen wins Pala, but double whammy for Jose K Mani

Jose K Mani, who had given up his Rajya Sabha seat to contest the Kerala Assembly elections, lost the Pala seat.
A collage of Jose K Mani and Mani C Kappen
A collage of Jose K Mani and Mani C Kappen
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On the morning of May 2, when a Malayalam news channel asked Mani C Kappen whether he was anxious about the 2021 Kerala Assembly results, he said with a smile, “I am very cool.” He reiterated that he would win the Pala seat in Kottayam by a margin of more than 15,000 votes. When asked what he thought was the most positive factor in this election, the National Congress Kerala chief replied, “It is the response of the people that I have received.” As the results began rolling out on May 2, the UDF candidate secured 67,638 votes, retaining the Assembly seat.

Though initial trends showed LDF candidate Jose K Mani leading, a couple of hours into the counting, celebrations began at Mani C Kappen’s home in Pala. He was seen seated with his entire family and cutting a cake that had, ‘Changaanu Pala’ written on it, which roughly translates to, ‘Pala is love.’ 

It is believed that when the LDF offered Jose K Mani the Pala seat, Mani C Kappen was offered to contest from another constituency. He refused the offer and replied, ‘Changaanu Pala,’ evincing that he wouldn’t wish to move out of the constituency. In a symbolic reference, the same line was written on the cake that was brought to celebrate the Kappen’s lead over Jose K Mani on May 2.  

Mani C Kappen defeated his rival and LDF candidate Jose K Mani, who leads the Kerala Congress (Mani) party, by 14,941 votes — very close to the margin by which Kappen had claimed he would win. Apart from being a politician, Mani C Kappen is also a filmmaker, producer and actor. He is the sitting MLA of Pala and was elected to power in the by-election in 2019.

Mani C Kappen, who contested on a UDF ticket this election from Kottayam district’s Pala constituency, had contested four times earlier on an LDF ticket. When the LDF dumped Kappen and decided to give their ticket to Jose K Mani, the son of late KM Mani, Mani C Kappen switched over to the UDF and decided to contest on a UDF ticket. 

In February 2021, after severing ties with the LDF, Mani C Kappen floated his own party under the UDF, the National Congress Kerala (NCK).      

Mani C Kappen had contested three times against KM Mani, who was always known to be a tall leader from the Pala constituency. Late KM Mani had been the elected representative of Pala for 54 years. The first time he became an MLA from Pala was in 1965. Since then, until his death in 2019, he has remained the choice of the people in Pala.

Each of the three times that Mani C Kappen had contested against KM Mani, though he had lost, he managed to reduce the margin by which KM Mani won. While the margin was 25,000 votes when Kappen contested for the first time, he managed to reduce the margin to around 4,700 votes in the third election against the Kerala Congress (Mani) supremo.

In the bye-election that followed KM Mani’s death in 2019, Kappen managed to crack the Pala challenge and was elected with a margin of 3,000 votes. Kappen has managed to win against Jose Tom Pulikunnel, who was known to be a close aide of KM Mani for over 25 years.

The entire battle became interesting in Pala when Jose K Mani gave up his Rajya Sabha seat (given by the UDF) when he decided to contest the Assembly elections.

While Mani C Kappen banked on his performance as an MLA in the short period after the bye-election, Jose K Mani promised to make Pala an education hub if voted to power. During his campaign, Kappen conveyed to the people that he would make Pala a tourist destination, just like how he had managed to get more than 400 crores of funding, during his short term as the elected representative of the constituency.

Mani C Kappen’s victory gives him another chance to fulfil his aspirations for the constituency and the people of Pala. This victory leaves Jose K Mani with a double loss — loss of the Pala Assembly seat, and also, a loss of the Rajya Sabha seat.

Watch this ground report from Pala:

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