September 2018
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State BJP divided over KM Mani's NDA entry
(Mar 20, 2018): Differences seem to have surfaced in the state unit of BJP over the partys moves to seek the support of Kerala Congress (M) leader K M Mani in coming Chengannur assembly byelection, which is witnessing a stiff triangualar contest.

A day after BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekaran extended an invitation to Mani to join the NDA fold,�senior party leader V Muraleedharan, recently elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Maharshtra, today said the KC(M) chief "has to change his stand to become an NDA partner."

The bye-election, necessitated by the demise of sitting CPI(M) MLA K K Ramachandran Nair, is crucial for BJP, which had finished a close third in the segment in the 2016 assembly polls with the support of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS).

In their bid to ensure KC(M)s support to Pillai in the bypoll, a group of BJP leaders, led by national executive member P K Krishnadas, visited Mani?s hometown Pala and held a meeting with him on Saturday. Talking to reporters in Kochi, Muraleedharan, a former state BJP president, said everything was clear in Rajasekharan's statement.

"What he said was very clear. He said those who accept the ideas and vision of NDA could be a part of the front... which means Mani has to change his stand. He has not changed his stand so far. No corrupt persons would be�made part of NDA, he said without elaborating further.

Though the date for the bypoll was yet to be announced, the ruling LDF has announced Saji Cherian as its candidate and the UDF and BJP have named D Viyajkumar and P S Sreedharan Pillai as their nominees. Pillai, also a former state party president, today said there was nothing wrong in accepting votes of anybody in Chengannur.

"We do not consider anyone untouchable," he told PTI in Thiruvananthapuram. Pillai, who contested unsuccessfully from Chengannur in the 2016 elections, said he had garnered 43,000 votes then and he can win now if he was able to add another 5,000 votes to his kitty. �� Meanwhile, Mani kept his plans close to his chest and has not yet revealed which front the party would support in the bypoll.

BJP sources said there were two opinions in the party over the stand to be taken on inducting Mani, who faced corruption charges over bar bribery scam during his tenure as Finance Minister in the previous Congress-led UDF. A section supporting Muraleedharan is of the view that there was no point in welcoming Mani since he or his party had not shown any interest in joining the NDA fold. The KC(M) has adopted an equi-distance stand from all fronts in Kerala after it severed its three decades old tie up with the Congress-led UDF in 2016. (PTI)

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