Kerala: Amid NCP-Left Front rift, Pawar to take final call

A fluid political situation has emerged in the Kerala unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which is an alliance partner of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF). However, top leaders said that the final decision would be taken by NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and his Deputy Praful Patel in New Delhi on Friday.

Speaking to the media, after a meeting with Pawar, state NCP president T.P. Peethamabaran said there are differences of opinion between the NCP and LDF leaders.

“Ours is a democratic party and hence it is natural there will be differences of opinion. Patel is currently out of the country and will be reaching shortly for the decision tomorrow,” said Peethamabaran.

The Kerala’s NCP unit has been an alliance partner of the ruling LDF for years and has two legislators, including a state Minister.

Another NCP seat (Kuttanad), which was represented by Thomas Chandy, has been lying vacant since 2019 after he passed away.

The NCP in Kerala got a major boost when Mani C. Kappen won the Pala Assembly seat in a by-election in 2019, following the death of veteran K.M.Mani who was the incumbent legislator of Pala constituency since its inception in 1967.

Kappen who lost to Mani in 2011 and 2016, won the seat in 2019 when Mani’s party – Kerala Congress (Mani) failed to capitalise on the sympathy factor after his death.

But things went for a toss, especially for Kappen, ever since K.M. Mani’s son – Jose K.Mani who now leads the party became an ally of the LDF, while the other faction led by senior legislator P.J. Joseph continues in the UDF.

Things went from bad to worse when speculation began that Kappen will have to vacate his seat in the upcoming assembly polls in April/May for Jose K. Mani, who has already quit the Rajya Sabha and is all set to contest polls from Pala seat.

“In no way, I will vacate Pala as it’s strange that a winning candidate is being asked to make way for a losing party. To me, Pala is everything and I will not part with it,” said Kappen.

However, Cabinet Minister A.K. Saseendran of the NCP is fully with the CPI-M and he along with his faction has ruled out any rift within the party.

“I do not think it is an issue, let us wait,” said Saseendran to the media on Thursday.

Sources said there are indications that in case of a split in the NCP, Saseendran and his aides may return to the Congress-S, also an ally of the ruling Left.

“I also heard that Saseendran and his aides might cross over to the Congress-S,” added Kappen.

Meanwhile, State Congress president Mullapally Ramachandran on Thursday said that Kappen is welcome in the Congress if he is willing to join the party.