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Rival Kerala fronts get ready for assembly by-election

Saturday - February 22, 2020 3:53 pm , Category : INDIA
Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 22 (IANS) The traditional political fronts in Kerala -- the ruling CPI-M-led LDF and the Congress led UDF -- are getting ready to take on each other at the Kuttanadu assembly by-election set to be announced shortly.
The seat fell vacant after sitting NCP legislator and former state Minister Thomas Chandy passed away in December last year.
Businessman-turned-politician, Chandy had completed a hat-trick of wins in the 2016 assembly polls, when he defeated the Kerala Congress (Mani) candidate Jacob Abraham by 4,891 votes.
Confusion persists in both the rival fronts about which party would contest the seat, though LDF has "in principle" agreed to put up an NCP candidate. The choice for NCP, which is represented in the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet, emerged after an LDF meeting on Friday, according to NCP leader and minister A.K. Saseendran.
The NCP got a new legislator in Mani C. Kappen, when he won the Pala assembly by-election held following the death of UDF stalwart and veteran legislator K.M. Mani.
Mani's party since his death has now for all practical purposes split between veteran party legislator P.J. Joseph and Mani's son, Jose K. Mani. With the Kuttanad assembly seat now vacant, a tussle has broken out between Joseph and Jose K. Mani over the seat.
Amid the row, there are reports that the Congress might take the seat.
Following the tussle breaking out in the erstwhile Mani's party, state Congress president Mullapally Ramachandran has already asked the UDF allies to maintain calm and political decorum.
On Saturday former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the media that the UDF is meeting on the February 25 and that "all that is being heard in the media is baseless".
Meanwhile, issues have surfaced in the BJP-led NDA too, as Subhas Vasu, a powerful leader in the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), who contested the seat last time and secured over 33,000 votes, has now fallen out with BDJS chairman Tushar Vellapally.
The lone Keralite in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet -- State Minister for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan -- after a closed door meeting with the Tushar's father Vellapally Natesan has confirmed that for the BJP, Tushar is the BDJS leader.

--IANS sg/prs