SEC allots two leaves to Mani faction

Order expected to give a clear edge to the group

On the heels of a High Court order upholding the Central Election Commission’s order, the State Election Commission (SEC) on Saturday reallocated the name and reserved the symbol of the Kerala Congress (M), to the party led by Jose K. Mani.

In an order, State Election Commissioner V. Bhaskaran stated that the symbol of two leaves be designated to the candidates as nominated by the party functionaries. The agency also withdrew its earlier order to allot ‘table fan’ as the election symbol of the Mani group, which could now be assigned to Independent candidates.

Earlier this week, the SEC had frozen the symbol in view of the continuing claims by Jose K. Mani and P.J. Joseph and allotted ‘table fan’ and ‘chenda’ (drum) as their respective election symbols for the upcoming local body polls. The decision, however, was subject to the orders from the High Court of Kerala on the cases pending over the issue.

“After this, the respected HC pronounced its order on the cases (WP (C) No. 18556/ 2020, 18638/ 2020), which had been under its consideration and entitled the Kerala Congress led by Jose K. Mani to to use the party’s name and its reserved symbol of Two Leaves,” the order said.

The SEC’s order is expected to give a clear edge to the Mani group over the rival group as the candidates fielded by the rival faction will now have to contest as UDF Independents in the absence of a stay from the HC Division Bench. “Even if the Joseph group seeks to secure a stay on this, this has to happen by Monday when the deadline to withdraw nominations ends,” a senior UDF leader said.

Emotionally connected

The possession of ‘two leaves’, a party symbol perceived to be emotionally connected to the voters of Central Travancore, assumes significance particularly as the upcoming local body election marks a direct confrontation between the Mani and Joseph groups. In the Kottayam district panchayat alone, the two regional parties have squared up to each other in as many as five divisions.

The Joseph group has fielded 25 candidates across 11 district panchayats and the Mani group is contesting from 27 seats across 14. The outcome of these fights, following a vertical split in the regional party and the subsequent changes in their political stances, will also establish their positions within the respective coalitions.

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