PJ Joseph is a reclusive and soft-spoken leader. He rarely hits the headlines by being part of any controversy. But as elections are around the corner, Joseph has upped the ante and begun to play the negotiation game.
He has staked claim to the seat(s) that Congress intends to give to Kerala Congress (M) in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Historically, of the total 20 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the KC (M)’s share in the Congress-led United Democratic Front has been one seat. In 2014 elections, KC (M) supremo KM Mani’s son and his successor in the party, Jose K Mani won from the Kottayam seat.
Jose K Mani was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the UDF, a move that irked several leaders of the Congress, in June 2018. Hence, the Joseph faction of KC (M) believes that they deserve the LS seat since the RS seat has been taken by the Mani faction even before Jose K Mani completed his tenure as Lok Sabha MP.
The political party floated by PJ Joseph- Kerala Congress (J) merged with KC (M) in 2010. Prior to that, the KC (J) had been a part of the Left Democratic Front led by the CPI (M), for two decades.
“KC (M) have staked claim for two seats this time, one is the usual Kottayam and another is Idukki or some other seat in addition. The Congress hasn’t responded to it yet. The discussion on this is scheduled for February 18. The KC (M) is bigger now and hence the claim for two seats is natural. And if we get two seats, it is natural for the Joseph group to claim one seat,” Mons Joseph, leader of Joseph faction, tells TNM.
Mons Joseph and PJ Joseph are the two MLAs of the group and PJ Joseph is the working chairman of KC (M). What if the Congress gave only one seat? “Well, the discussion won’t come to that level,” Mons says. But a party insider confirms that the party has demanded both of the seats if the Congress agrees to give two and one seat if Congress gives only one because the Mani faction has already taken the RS seat.”
Jose K Mani’s Kerala Yatra
Jose K Mani has been on a Kerala Yatra (All Kerala Rally) ahead of the elections. The rally will conclude in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday, February 15. PJ Joseph has left for Dubai to take part in the Loka Kerala Sabha and won’t be there at the conclusion of the rally.
PJ Joseph, it is learnt, has been irked by Mani’s ‘preferential treatment’ by projecting Jose K Mani as the leader next to Mani. “Even if the Congress gave two seats, it is most likely that Mani won’t give to the Joseph faction,” a source said. When the name of Nisha Jose K Mani, wife of Jose K Mani, emerged in discussions to contest the elections, Jose K Mani denied it.
“But it was a dishonest statement from him, for KM Mani mostly wants his family members in the top positions or his trusted lieutenants in the party. PJ Joseph may work under Mani but won’t under Jose K Mani,” the source adds.
PJ Joseph had been late to the Kerala Yatra when it reached Thodupuzha-the centre of Idukki-last week. There were less people to receive the rally. The message was loud and clear from PJ Joseph to Mani. Idukki is the fortress of the Joseph group and he is one of the most popular leaders there.
Will PJ Joseph return to LDF?
The Francis George-led faction had quit KC (M) to join LDF ahead of the 2016 assembly elections. Francis George still maintains a good rapport with PJ Joseph. However, Mons Joseph denied the possibility of PJ Joseph going back to the LDF. “It is our firm decision, including PJ Joseph’s that we will remain with the UDF. It was not deliberate for Joseph to be late to Jose K Mani’s rally in Thodupuzha. Joseph took part in the rally in Kollam and Kasargode and there is no confusion over it. He won’t be there in Thiruvananthapuram since he is in Dubai for the Loka Kerala Sabha which had been decided earlier. He is representing KC (M) there. But we all are participating in the rally in Thiruvananthapuram” he says.
“There is no political situation now that prompts us to return to the LDF,” Mons says.
The LDF may try to woo PJ Joseph to rethink on the decision since it would be useful to join hands with him-an influential leader in Idukki, some parts of the neighbouring district Kottayam and even in some areas of Ernakulam like Muvattupuzha, in the Lok Sabha elections. The negotiations could happen through Francis George. PJ Joseph, on his part, is inclined to jump ship if he feels he is being sidelined in the party.