Impact of ‘sonrise’ on Kerala party

P. Sreekumaran

“Sonrise’ has caused problems for many a political party and politician. The latest victim has been the Samajwadi Party and its founder, Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Down South, Kerala is playing host, right now, to a political drama the dramatis personae of which are Kerala Congress(M) chief Karingozhakkal Mani Mani and his son and the lone party Lok Sabha MP, Jose K. Mani.
The party has been thrown into tizzy because of the decision taken by the son, with the tacit approval of the father, to seek the support of the CPM in the Kottayam Panchayat elections. As a result, the Congress candidate lost and the KJC(M) candidate romped home the winner with CPM support!
The ‘sunstroke’ drew vehement criticism from within the party. What incurred their collective wrath was that the father-son duo took the decision without taking the party into confidence. So strong was the reaction from the supporters of the PJ Joseph group in the party that the normally mild-mannered Joseph openly aired his displeasure.
A bigger shock for the father-son combine was the strong criticism leveled by even close confidants of Mani like CF Thomas. The latter went on record that such a major policy decision to align with the CPM, should not have been taken without inner-party consultations.
The vehemence of the criticism forced a chastened Mani to beat a hasty retreat. There was no move to forge an alliance at the state-level with the CPM, claimed the KC(M) chief. Mani would have the people believe that it was a local-level decision, taken without his prior approval! The statement is a strong contender for the joke of the year award as everyone knows that not a leaf stirs in the KC(M) without Mani’s nod.
Jokes apart, ‘sonrise’ has been a bone of contention within the KC(M) over the past few years. This is not the first time that Mani has been accused of trying to convert the KC(M) into a family property.
First to raise the banner of revolt was PC George, a one-time Man Friday of Mani. The combative and garrulous George thundered that Mani’s son would not be allowed to hijack the party and call the shots. This was the reason why George fell foul of Mani, climaxing in his exit from the party.
Sometime later, three MLAs who owed allegiance to the PJ Joseph faction also walked out of the party contending that Mani was openly encouraging ‘sonrise’ in the party, bypassing several senior leaders with proven ability and experience.
Mani’s decision to align with the CPM, albeit at the panchayat level angered the Congress which termed it as an act of political betrayal. Even the soft-spoken Oommen Chandy came out with a strong rejoinder dubbing the decision as an act of political dishonesty.
But the Congress, however, decided to continue the agreement with the KC(M) in the local self-governments! – a move which is nothing but an act of unabashed opportunism. And the theatre of the absurd continues with the Congress supporting a KC(M) candidate in another panchayat election in Kottyam district!
But, whatever the denouement, Mani has his task cut out. He has run out of options with the Congress taking the stand that a decision on Mani’s re-entry into the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) camp can wait.
Mani’s move to align with the CPM at the panchayat level also saw the differences in the LDF coming to the fore. The CPI declared that there was no question of having an alliance with Mani at the state-level or inducting him ito the LDF. It would be nothing short of political suicide for the LDF to embrace Mani, the epitome of corruption, against whom the LDF has been waging an unrelenting battle for over five years while the LDF was in opposition.
The srong reaction from the CPI compelled the CPM to change its line. The CPM, at least a section of the party, is not averse to a tie-up with the KC(M). Their rationale: an understanding with regional parties is an essential pre-requisite for the larger battle against the fascist forces led by the BJP not only in the state but at the national level as well. The CPI, however, feels that joining hands with Mani would weaken the LDF’s commitment to fight corruption, a key component of the LDF manifesto. 
Now that an overwhelming majority of leaders in the party voicing their strong opposition to cosy up to the CPM, Mani has no option but to abandon the move. Of course, it is not difficult to divine the reason why Mani is keen on joining hands with the CPM. The bar bribery case in which Mani is the prime accused, is hanging over his head like the proverbial Damocles Sword. A modus Vivendi with the CPM would, so he thinks, get the case out of the way.
However, his close supporters scuttled the Mani move. Majority within the KC(M) want the party to get back to the UDF by letting bygones be bygones. They feel the earlier this is done, the better, preferably before the parliamentary elections due in 2019.
The KC(M) patriarch has been forewarned. Failure to see the writing on the wall would prove disastrous. First and foremost, Mani must end the move to promote his son ignoring the opposition from senior party leaders. Persistence in his effort to ensure early coronation of his son as the party supremo could have disastrous consequences. “Sonrise’ could then lead to the sun setting on the KC(M), which has dominated politics in central Kerala for over four decades. (IPA)

Friday, 19 May, 2017