KM Mani -Kerala Congress(M) leader and former state finance minister in the previous UDF government in Kerala- is a very unhappy man, as far as his fragile relations with the United Democratic Front (UDF) is concerned.
Especially since he was forced to resign from his cabinet post in November 2015, following a flurry of allegations in the bar bribery scam. What made the same increasingly unpalatable was the fact that another cabinet colleague K Babu (former Excise Minister) -despite facing similar accusations- -could continue in his post till assembly elections.
This naturally led to many Kerala Congress leaders questioning the UDFâs double stance in the said controversy. Ironically, Mani won and Babu lost in the assembly polls that were held in May this year.
Despite mounting dissatisfaction within the party, Mani decided to continue with the UDF even after its severe drubbing in the polls. But simmering undercurrents once again brought to the fore the differences between the Front and KC (M), when the latter 'boycotted' the meeting of all Front leaders held on July 25 in Thiruvananthapuram.
UDF Convener P P Thankachan was heard saying that Mani did not attend the meeting due to personal reasons. But KC(M) sources insist it was done on purpose.
Relations had soured even more after Indian National Congress(INC) leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy and current leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala attended the betrothal ceremony of the daughter of controversial hotelier Biju Ramesh who had raked up the whole bar scam in the first place.
Interestingly, Bijuâs daughter got engaged to the son of INC leader and former UDF revenue minister Adoor Prakesh whose name kept popping up in the land scam.
Prathichaya -the KC(M) mouthpiece- in its editorial on July 6 had come down heavily on Chandy and Chennithala for taking part in the ceremony.
Chennithala tried to dismiss the entire episode lightly, by reiterating the absence of any major problems within the Front. "Kerala Congress is an integral part of the UDF. Any issue that remains to be addressed will be settled through discussions and dialogue," he reportedly told the media.
A source in the Congress says Mani has sent word to Delhi leadership that they would not continue in UDF as long as Ramesh Chennithala was the UDF chairman.
Prathichaya editorials however continued to criticize the INC leaders. An article published on Wednesday even went on to allege that it was the INC which had conspired against Mani, thereby forcing him to resign.
Meanwhile Mani has purportedly called for a meeting of KC(M) leaders, wherein âcrucialâ decisions are to be taken. He has also kept other UDF leaders who tried to meet him at bay, with the excuse that he is heading for a âspiritual retreatâ this week.
As if things were not convoluted enough, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has invited KC(M) to join forces with the NDA.
âMani might not leave UDF as of now, preferring to remain as some sort of a pressure group within the front, while also working on political leverage in simultaneous bargaining with the Centre and state BJP leaders. The one thing that is certain is that KC(M) will have no truck with the LDF whatsoever,â opines NP Rajendran -veteran journalist and political analyst.
Or will KC(M) prefer to opt to retain an independent entity, only time will tell.