P C Thomas-led Kerala Congress quits NDA, merges with Joseph faction

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(Eds: Adds details) (Rpting after adding initial in 3rd line of 1st para) Kochi/Kottayam, Mar 17 (PTI) Ahead of the April 6 Assembly polls, the Kerala Congress headed by former Union Minister P C Thomas on Wednesday quit the BJP-led NDA and merged with another Kerala Congress faction headed by P J Joseph, which is a constituent of the Congress-led UDF.

Thomas, who helped the NDA register its first electoral victory in Kerala by winning the 2004 Lok Sabha polls from then Muvattupuzha seat, quit the BJP-led alliance alleging that his party was neglected by the front when the seats were allocated for the April 6 polls.

The Kerala Congress leader, who was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, said his party was given four seats in the 2016 Assembly polls but not a single seat was allocated this time.

Thomas said the BJP leadership had offered him Pala assembly seat but he did not opt for it due to some personal reasons.

Later in the afternoon, the merger took place at an election convention of the UDF held at Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam district.

Senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy and senior leaders of the Kerala Congress Joseph faction attended the election convention of sitting MLA from Kaduthuruthy constituency Mons Joseph.

Mons Joseph is a senior leader of the Joseph faction, which lost its election symbol and recognition following its split with the Jose K Mani-led Kerala Congress (M).

The merger became a reality two days after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by P J Joseph challenging the Election Commission's order recognising the Jose K Mani faction as the official Kerala Congress (M) and allotting the party's symbol to it.

Since the Kerala Congress headed by Thomas is a registered party, the merger would help Joseph-led faction to retain the name Kerala Congress and apply for a common symbol for its candidates contesting in the Assembly polls on UDF tickets, sources said.

Welcoming the merger of two Kerala Congress groups, Chandy said Thomas has reached the right place and said more such democratic forces will join the Congress-led alliance in the state.

Thomas expressed hope that more people will join the Kerala Congress. PTI COR TGB BN ADMINISTRATOR BN ADMINISTRATOR