Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday appeared to indicate that Left Democratic Front (LDF) would yield the Pala Assembly seat to Jose K. Mani of the Kerala Congress (M) regardless of the incumbent legislator and National Congress Party (NCP) leader Mani C. Kappan’s protestations.
When pressed about reports that Mr. Kappan would defect to the UDF if the ruling front denied him the seat he currently held, Mr. Vijayan said coalition partners should proffer some of their seats to accommodate new allies (KC(M) and LJD).
“The CPI(M) is willing to take that step. The past seat-sharing agreement has become redundant with the LDF’s expansion,” he said.
The Chief Minister saw no reason why the NCP should quit the LDF. NCP State president T.P. Peethambaran had not dwelled on any such possibility. He had discussed the Pala issue with NCP general secretary Praful Patel. The LDF has not discussed seat-sharing so far.
Mr. Vijayan’s words seemed to set the stage for Mr. Kappan’s possible exit from the LDF amidst widespread speculation that the NCP in Kerala was teetering on the edge of a split over the Pala issue.
Fissures in the NCP had come to the fore after party veteran and Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran argued for accommodation with Mr. Jose purportedly at the CPI(M)’s instance. Mr. Kappan had made no secret of his annoyance at Mr. Saseendran’s tack.
Mr. Kappan and Mr. Peethambaran are in New Delhi to confer with the national leadership. When pressed whether he would quit the LDF, Mr. Kappan said rather ominously that “there will be clarity on Friday.”
The NCP’s future as a cohesive party in Kerala would to some measure hinge on party president Sharad Pawar’s decision on whether to “sacrifice” Pala at the altar of LDF unity, a party insider said.
He said the drumbeats of dissension were getting louder in the NCP by the day. Both Mr. Kappan and Mr. Saseendran factions had gauged their respective strengths in NCP district committees. The groups had also tested the water with influential district and State-level leaders.
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