Thiruvananthapuram: With the election commission notifying the Pala by-election set for September 23, the deeply divided opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is hard-pressed to get its acts together.
Retaining the citadel of the late Kerala Congress (M) founder K. M. Mani, who won the seat 13 times in a row, is a prestigious issue for them, especially after the historic win in the national elections three months back.
The success depends on how Kerala Congress factions led by P. J. Joseph and Jose K. Mani bury the hatchet. UDF is meeting today at Cantonment House, where it was planning to finalise its agitational programme against the LDF government.
The model code of conduct is already in force in the state, and the announcement has caught the three fronts by surprise.
Rumours were rife that by-elections to all the six constituencies would be announced early September in a single go.
But with floods and landslides ravaging eight districts in Kerala, the district collectors and police administration had reported to the ECI to delay as much as they can.
By-elections in Ernak-ulam, Aroor, Konni and Vattiyoorkavu have to be concluded within six months since the sitting members who got elected to Lok Sabha resign-ed.
The election in Manjeshwar constituency whose member P.B. Abdul Razak died in October, remains entangled in litigation.
Mr Mani had anointed himself as the party chairman two months ago after his father’s demise, while Mr Joseph, the working chairman, rejected it and initiated a disciplinary action, which is now before a court.
UDF convenor Benny Behanan said the Congress party would not intervene in the candidature of KC (M).
“Mr Joseph will be attending the UDF meeting on Monday. We will be discussing in detail on the candidate,” he told DC.
Mr Joseph is irked at giving the first half of eight months to the Mani faction as the Kottayam district panchayat president.
Congress camp hopes Mr Joseph is unlikely to oppose the candidature of Nisha Jose, wife of bete noire.
But rumours are rife that if Ms Jose is fielded, Joseph faction will be bargaining for a critical post. If not, chances of his faction ditching the UDF cannot be ruled out.
The nominations will be open from Wednesday until September 4. Counting of votes in Pala will be on Sept 24....