KOTTAYAM: The Congress has made it amply clear that the K.M. Mani era has ended in Pala by taking control of the campaign for the byelection in the constituency where it was forced to play second fiddle to the regional stalwart for more than five decades. It was the Congress way the way in electioneering though the UDF candidate Jose Tom Pulikkunnel belonged to the Kerala Congress (M).
The Congress fielded its top leaders to create a flutter for the benefit of the UDF even as it ensured its second layer leaders and MLAs stationed in the constituency, actively leading the electioneering. While A.K. Antony made a visit to the constituency, other seniors Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, KC Joseph and Benny Behanan stayed put for many days. Youngsters Shafi Parampil and V.T. Balram, both MLAs, also sweated it out to garner votes for the UDF candidate. Apart from major conventions, it organised meetings at mandalam and booth levels. Cornerand family meetings were also part of the process.
The senior Mani had defeated LDF candidate Mani C. Kappen, who taken on mr pulikkunnel this time also, by a thin margin of 4,703 votes in the last election when the Congress-Kerala Congress (M) rivalry is at its peak following the bar bribery allegations and Mr Mani's innuendos against some Congress leaders for their role in allegedly orchestrating it.
The KC (M) suspected that Congress votes went in favour of the BJP candidate instead of Mr Mani, given the nearly four-time increase in the BJP candidate's votes compared with the previous one. A senior Congress leader said a last minute understanding with the SNDP Yogam helped Mr Mani coast to victory. "Otherwise he would have lost," he said.
Mani towered over the constituency so much so Congress's tall leaders in the state politics including former Meghalaya governor M.M. Jacob and former KPCC president K.M. Chandy, both from Pala, got no chance to expand their area of influence in the region. In 1970, Mr Jacob had lost to Mani by a thin margin of 364 votes, and the Kerala Congress patriarch never let go of the constituency to the Congress ever after. It was only this time it was able to assert its organisational supremacy over the Kerala Congress (M), weakened by internecine fights.