Kerala's political narrative, which has been driven by the government's handling of the Covid crisis for the past two months, has found a diversion, with the possibility of a realignment of affiliations among the partners of both ruling and opposition fronts. The animation has been caused by trouble in the Kerala Congress (Mani) group, which forced the United Democratic Front leadership to 'expel' the faction led by Jose K Mani, the son of K M Mani, one of the founders of the UDF.
The trouble in the coalition partner was triggered by the refusal of the Mani faction to share the presidentship of a district panchayat with a rival faction led by veteran leader PJ Joseph as per an agreement ironed out by the UDF leadership.
Kerala Congress is an influential political force in the Christian-dominated Central Travancore area. The UDF decision has prompted the faction to explore the possibility of joining the ruling front, which is keen on a second term in the elections scheduled for next year.
CM Pinarayi Vijayan has already indicated the possibility of such a move, when he said that there are no permanent friends and enemies in politics and that policies are the product of situations.
The BJP has also joined the courting game, saying that the splinter group is welcome to join its fold if it backs the Modi government.
Jose K Mani has managed to play the martyrdom card by claiming that the UDF decision amounted to expelling his late K M Mani, who had been one of the architects of the UDF. Aware of the pitfalls of such a situation, the UDF has embarked on a damage control operation by insisting it only debarred the Mani faction from attending the UDF meets in view of its open defiance of the agreement worked out by the leadership.
The UDF now says if the irritant is removed, which by implication means the transfer of the district panchayat presidentship to the rival faction, the Mani faction can continue to be part of the UDF. The possibility of Jose Mani's crossing over has, however, caused its own problems within the LDF, with the CPI, opposing any such move. CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran recently said that the Left Front is not a ventilator to provide life support to those in trouble elsewhere. But the front leader CPI-M continues to show a certain softness towards the Mani faction.