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When Kerala politics churn, enemies become best friends!

  • The extra-coalition affair that is blossoming between Mani and the Marxists has made the CPI see red. 
  • The CPI has made it clear that it is opposed to any move to bring in Mani.
When Kerala politics churn enemies become best friends

Irony committed suicide in Kerala this week when the CPI(M) joined hands with Kerala Congress (Mani) to checkmate the Congress in a Kottayam district panchayat election. 

Because just two years back, the same CPI(M) had made life difficult for KC (Mani) leader and then finance minister in the UDF regime, KM Mani, forcing him to resign for his alleged involvement in the bar bribery scandal. 

Even though Mani has dismissed the Kottayam fling as a one-off arrangement, the extra-coalition affair that is blossoming between Mani and the Marxists has made the CPI see red. 

The CPI is the second largest group in the LDF with 19 MLAs and is suspicious of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan's moves. 

The rumblings of discontent that have been audible ever since the LDF came to power last May are now gaining decibel strength. 

The churning has begun in the LDF and the CPI(M) has decided to go public with the domestic political dispute.

Its mouthpiece `Deshabhimani' on Saturday has ripped the CPI apart for opposing the CPI(M)-Mani tie-up. Mincing no words, its editorial said: "Some of our companions were seen expressing discontent over the defeat of the Congress in the election. Their wails were louder than those that emerged from Indira Bhavan.''

The Congress has good reason to feel annoyed. It was expecting to easily win the post of the panchayat president with the support of the Mani group. 

But taking the Congress by surprise, the KC(M) put up its own candidate at the last minute and with Marxist support, won the post. The Congress that has called the move by Mani's party a "breach of trust'", sees Kottayam as a trial balloon before launching Operation Thiruvananthapuram. KC (M) has six lawmakers in the Kerala assembly.

Mani, ever his inglorious exit from the Oommen Chandy ministry, has been licking his wounds, waiting for an opportunity to strike back at the Congress for ditching him. 

His group reportedly tried to warm up to the BJP, which too was looking for an opening in central Kerala, where Mani wields considerable influence in the Christian community. Flirting with the BJP would also, Mani calculated, improve his bargaining power within the UDF.

But cosying up to the BJP comes with its own set of problems. The nature of Kerala politics is such that the UDF and LDF will never allow a third force to rise in the state. 

This means the two political rivals won't shy away from joining hands to keep the BJP out in districts like Kottayam and Idukki, where Mani is a force to reckon with. 

Which is why Mani thinks he would be better off with the LDF, especially if the UDF treats him with disdain. But the LDF is not united on whether the mathematical calculation of LDF + KC (M) is the politically sensible thing to do.

The CPI makes no bones about its unhappiness with Vijayan's style of functioning. In fact, in January, CPI leader Sathyan Mokeri called the CM "Narendra Modi in mundu", the traditional Kerala attire. 

This was seen as a response to Welfare minister AK Balan criticising the working of two CPI ministers and Electricity minister MM Mani calling the CPI ministers stupid. 

The CPI has made it clear that it is opposed to any move to bring in Mani. The national leadership of the CPI(M) too may advise caution but the Marxist state unit isn't willing to slam the door on Mani. At least, not immediately. 

The CPI(M) is also being clever. By creating the rift between the Congress and Mani, it has succeeded in weakening the UDF to an extent. 

It also wants to tell the CPI that should it criticise the big brother in the LDF; a political stepney is available in the KC (Mani). 

Differences between the two partners have been rocking the boat for months now, be it over the alleged fake encounter of the Maoists in November 2016 or the more recent Munnar eviction issue where Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan of the CPI is locking horns with MM Mani of the CPI(M).

In fact, while Chandrasekharan wants the district administration to go ahead with removing encroachers in Munnar, Idukki strongman Mani openly called for Devikulam sub-collector V Sriram to be sent to a mental asylum, for removing a cross that was reportedly erected on encroached land. 

Mani too has his own reasons for mulling his options. He would want the bar bribery scam to be off his back, and the only party that can help him do that is the CPI(M). 

But even within the KC (Mani), not everyone is happy about the prospect of taking a left turn. With its meagre strength in the Kerala assembly, the legislature party is vulnerable to overtures from the Congress should Mani decide to move out of UDF. 

As the Vijayan government completes a year in office this month, the political situation is messy, with knives out across the spectrum. 

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