, May 27 (IANS) The faction of the Kerala Congress-Joseph, led by former PWD minister P.J.Joseph, Thursday merged with the Kerala Congress-Mani (KC-Mani) to make it the second biggest party in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
Joseph, a minister in the V.S. Achuthanandan government, resigned last month when his faction decided to merge with the KC-Mani.
The strength of KC-Mani - led by K.M.Mani, a legislator since 1965 - has gone up to 11 with the four members of Jospeh's faction joining in. The fifth member, Surendran Pillai, is now in the Kerala Congress led by former union minister of state P.C.Thomas, which remains with the Left Front.
Until now, the KC-Mani and the Indian Union Muslim League were jointly the second biggest parties in the UDF with eight legislators each.
Though the two factions have now merged officially, this was strongly opposed by the Congress party and other constituents of the UDF which includes the Kerala Congress-B, Kerala Congress-Jacob and the Communist Marxist Party.
Addressing a public meeting after the merger, Mani asserted that the UDF is not the property of anyone.
'This merger will only help the UDF to be more strong and today the Left government is a minority government and it should resign,' he said.
Joseph said this merger will only help the state and especially the farming community because their party always works for the interest of the farmers.
The next hurdle for Mani and Joseph is the crucial UDF meeting May 30 when it would be known if the Congress would accept Joseph and his faction as part of the KC-Mani.
Jospeh's party has its strongholds in the central districts of the state. The Congress, which also enjoyed having dominance in these areas, sees a merger between the two regional parties affecting its own chances.
Moreover till recently, the Congress and its leaders were highly critical of the corruption allegations surfacing about Joseph and now find it difficult to forget all that.