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KC (Jacob) to merge with NC(I) today

K.P.M. Basheer

Splinter groups of Kerala Congress mull realignments

KOCHI: The ensuing panchayat elections have triggered another round of merger among splinter groups of political parties. Pre-election time is usually the time for realignments and mergers in the State.

Interestingly, it is the splinter groups of the Kerala Congress--the party that has split and reunited the most number of times in Kerala--that form the common factor in at least three merger moves currently on.

The first of the mergers will be formalised on Sunday (August 21) when the Kerala Congress (Jacob), led by T.M. Jacob, and the National Congress (Indira) of K. Karunakaran, the youngest party in the State, will become a single entity. Mr. Jacob, whose party was part of the UDF and who was a Minister in the Antony Government, had to leave the UDF camp after Mr. Oommen Chandy replaced Mr. Antony. Mr. Jacob's sympathies have been with Mr. Karunakaran after the latter broke off with the Congress and set up shop.

The Kerala Congress (Jacob)'s anticipated merger has enthused the NC(I) cadres, particularly in Ernakulam, Kottayam and Idukki districts. However, an unexpected development has cast shadows over the merger meeting and dampened the spirits of cadres in both parties -- the CPI(M) decision not to have any electoral alliance with the National Congress(I). It is viewed as a big blow to the NC(I) and hence to KC (Jacob). Mr. Karunakaran had all along been counting on the support of the CPI(M) to get even with his political rivals. The CPI(M) had, throughout Mr. Karunakaran's long-drawn-out spat with the Congress, egged him on to break off from the Congress. Though Mr. Karunakaran and party president K. Muraleedharan as well as Mr. Jacob have put up a brave face at press conferences and sound confident of `local-level alliances', the cadres are clearly demoralised. The KC(Jacob)--which had been hoping to revive its political significance after it was compelled to leave the UDF, in the company of the NC(I) and the LDF--is disheartened too.

The second merger is that of IFDP, led by P.C. Thomas, with the Kerala Congress (Joseph). Sources indicate that the merger move is progressing well and that a joint announcement is likely soon, just in time to take on the panchayat elections. Since Mr. Joseph's party is with the LDF, Mr. Thomas's party, currently part of the BJP-led NDA, will cross over to the Left camp too. However, Mr. Thomas has a standing invitation to join the NC(I).

Another merger on the cards is that of Kerala Congress (Pillai) and Janata Dal. In fact, the KC (Pillai) was part of a failed move by the IFDP and three splinter groups of the Kerala Congress, Jacob, George and Pillai. This move came a cropper a few months ago. Now KC(Pillai) and Janata Dal are coming together.

There has always been an individual `merger'--V.C. Kabeer of former Congress-S has `merged' with the Congress in order to strengthen the ruling party.

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