Congress gets estranged Mani Shankar Aiyer back into UDF fold with Rajya Sabha seat
New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram, June 7 (IANS) After hectic political parleys between Congress leader from Kerala and the high command, including party President Rahul Gandhi, it was decided to hand over a Rajya Sabha seat to former ally Kerala Congress-Mani (KC-M), paving the way for its return into the UDF fold.
Of the three seats to which elections are to be held later this month, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) is able to win just one seat and was likely to renominate Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson P.J. Kurien, but this is now unlikely with Thursday’s decision.
Addressing reporters soon after the over an hour long meeting with Gandhi, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said this is just a one-time adjustment.
The general consensus in the UDF is strengthening of the alliance and that’s the need of the hour and to do that, “we all felt that KC-M should get a seat. As a special case, this time the Rajya Sabha seat will be given to them”, he said.
“In return, the Congress will get a Rajya Sabha seat when it falls vacant after four years… This out of turn allotment need be seen only as a special case.”
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who also took part in the discussions, said the KC-M was part of the UDF for 43 years and due to certain issues they decided to opt out about two years back, but in Delhi, they always remained part of the UPA alliance.
“Even after leaving the UDF, they gave their support to the UDF in three by-elections in Kerala that took place in the past nearly two years.
“The decision of the UDF was to bring KC-M back into the fold and it had entrusted IUML veteran and Lok Sabha member P.K. Kunhalikutty with the task of having discussions with their party leader K.M. Mani… and this was going on for the past three months and the issue has been clinched now,” he said.
Mani’s party severed ties with the UDF in 2016 and his party’s six legislators began sitting as a separate block in the Assembly.
State Congress president M.M. Hassan, who also took part in the discussions, said as part of the talks, it was also decided to allow KC-M their traditional Lok Sabha seat at Kottayam.
Expressing happiness in the new developments, KC-M supremo K.M. Mani told the media in Thiruvananthapuram that he wishes to thank Kunhalikutty who was the mediator in the discussion.
“I wish to thank the Congress party for this. Our party is eligible for it, as one of the members retiring now, is our leader. We will all now make a concerted effort to strengthen the UDF. With regards to who the candidate would be, will be decided tomorrow (on Friday),” he said.
However, the rapprochement has not gone down well with a section in the Congress, with former Congress state President V.M. Sudheeran lashing out at this “suicidal strategy”.
“The need of the hour is to strengthen the Congress and the UDF will strengthen only if the Congress is strong. This gifting of seat to Mani will in no way be of any help as Congress men will not be happy at all. Even Mani knows that he has no right to this seat…” said an angry Sudheeran.
A peeved Kurien meanwhile told the media in Delhi that he will abide by the decision as the party high command has agreed to it.
“This was a meek surrender of the Congress and the key architect in it is Chandy. The decision to hand over the seat to Mani was never discussed in the party at all. I was told today morning by Chennithala that Mani is demanding the seat. I said I have no problem in giving it up, but wished it would have gone to the Congress and not to some other party,” he said.