The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee has downplayed the protest among party workers over its decision to forgo a Rajya Sabha seat in favour of the Kerala Congress (M), which returned to the UDF coalition after a gap of two years.
The seat is currently held by Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien of the Congress, who is set to retire on July 1.
However, rumblings in the party over the issue continued with former KPCC president V M Sudheeran and Kurien voicing their protest.
Addressing a press meet at the party headquarters here, KPCC president M M Hassan said the protest over the decision was natural in a democratic party, but cautioned that it should not cross limits.
He said the party leadership also understood the workers' sentiments and their pain over the decision.
"We are also pained by the decision... but it was taken with a view to strengthening the party-led UDF and democratic forces to take on the BJP and LDF in the state," Hassan said.
The Congress party would issue a whip asking its MLAs to vote for Jose K Mani, the Rajya Sabha candidate of the K M Mani-led KC(M).
However, the KPCC chief admitted that the KC(M) insisted on the seat as a condition for its re-entry into the UDF fold.
It was widely expected that the Congress would put up its own candidate for the seat, currently held by Kurien.
However, in an unexpected move, as part of UDF formula, the RS seat was offered to KC-M paving the way for its return to the front.
Attacking the state party leadership, especially AICC general secretary Oommen Chandy, Sudheeran said party workers felt that they were being cheated.
The senior leader also alleged that the decision lacked transparency.
Launching a tirade against Chandy, Kurien said it was Chandy's "personal agenda" to hand over the seat to KC-M. He also said he would file a complaint with the high command.
The state leaders "misled" the high command with statements that the party and the UDF would perform better if KC-M returns to the coalition, Kurien told reporters.
Opposition leader in the state assembly and former KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala rejected Kurien's charges.
"Myself, Chandy and Hassan together informed AICC chief Rahul Gandhi about the decision to hand over the RS seat to KC-M," he said.
Two young Congress MLAs, V T Balaram and K S Sabarinathan, who were among those who asked Gandhi to reconsider the decision, expressed their displeasure again.
Balaram, in a Facebook post, called for a leadership change in the party and said people with vision and those who understood the pulse of the grassroot-level workers were the need of the hour.
Causing further embarrassment to the Congress, apparently as a mark of protest, a coffin with pictures of Chandy and Chennithala was found placed before the District Congress Committee Office in Kochi early today.
The two leaders, along with IUML all India general secretary P K Kunhalikutty had spearheaded the talks for patch up with KC-M.
Posters targeting Chandy and Chennithala were also found pasted on the walls of the district congress committee office building. Later, the party workers removed the posters and coffin from the premises.
The decision to field Jose K Mani, son of K M Mani, as the candidate was taken at a KC(M) meeting held last night in Pala, near Kottayam, hours after the party rejoined the UDF.
Jose K Mani is currently the party's lone member in the Lok Sabha from the Kottayam parliamentary constituency.
Three Rajya Sabha seats from Kerala are falling vacant this month. Of these, the ruling LDF is in a position to win two and the UDF one.
Besides Kurien, those retiring are C P Narayanan of CPI(M) and Joy Abraham of the Kerala Congress.