Mani joins UDF, Congress divided over RS seat

Thiruvananthapuram, June 8 (IANS) Kerala Congress chief K.M. Mani on Friday rejoined the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) amid protests by workers of the Congress youth and student wings against the allocation of a Rajya Sabha seat to his party.

Almost two years after he had taken a separate path, Mani was all smiles as he walked into the Cantonment House here where a meeting of the Congress-led UDF was on.

Minutes before Mani’s arrival was announced, former state Congress chief V.M. Sudheeran walked out of the meeting expressing his displeasure over the Congress decision to give away a seat it could have won to Mani’s party.

Sudheeran had lashed out at the state Congress leadership for gifting the Rajya Sabha seat to the Kerala Congress to get Mani back into its fold.

Even as the UDF meeting was on, angry activists of the youth and students wings of the Congress staged a sit-in in front of the venue.

It was in 2016 when Mani walked out of the UDF ending his over four-decade long association. He had accused a section of the Congress of working against him.

Ever since, he and his six legislators have formed a separate block in the Kerala Assembly.

In between, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist on a few occasions extended an olive branch to Mani to get him into the Left coalition.

Mani’s return was facilitated by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and state Congress chief M.M. Hassan with the support of IUML Lok Sabha member P.K. Kunhalikutty.

On Thursday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi sanctioned Mani’s return to the alliance.

A beaming Mani said: “We will now all work together to see the resurrection of the UDF and it will become a reality.”

An upset Sudheeran later told the media that although Mani’s return was welcome, the way the affair was handled, minus transparency, had hurt the Congress and UDF workers.

“Those who handed over the Rajya Sabha seat to Mani said it will strengthen the UDF. But actually it will not. In fact the Congress party has been weakened.

“The rank and file of the Congress has been badly hurt. The end result of this illogical decision has set the stage for strengthening of the BJP and that does not augur well,” said Sudheeran.

Protests took place at many places throughout the state against Chandy, Chennithala and Hassan.

Chennithala, however, defended the move and said it was not the first time that a Rajya Sabha seat had been given to an ally. Even under Sudheeran’s leadership, several decisions have been taken without consulting any committees.

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