With the last word on the Kerala Congress (Mani) -K.M. Mani - bowing out after being at the helm of all the political upheavals he and his party faced in more than half a century, the question on everyone's lips is: What's next for his party.
Eighty-six-year-old Mani, passed away on Tuesday at a private hospital in Kochi, after battling a lung ailment since early this year. The funeral would be held at his home town Pala, about 25 kms from Kottayam.
Mani has never ever lost an Assembly election since, his first outing in 1967 and holds the unique distinction of being a legislator for 52 years. He served as a State Minister, in both the Left and the Congress-led governments and presented 13 state budgets.
Mani joined the undivided Kerala Congress in 1965 and went on to become its undisputed leader. Over the years, his party underwent several splits and there are as many as seven different parties with the name Kerala Congress who all were at one point or the other part of the undivided Kerala Congress.
The most spoken sentence that's attributed to the Kerala Congress coined by Mani himself is: "We are a party that splits as we grow and grow as we split."
The immediate task for Mani's party is to find his successor and that's going to be a tough task. For one, there's his son Jose K. Mani, a two-time Lok Sabha member and presently a member of the Upper House.
Then, there is the party's working chairman - P.J. Joseph who merged his Kerala Congress (Joseph) with Mani's in 2010.
Ahead of the Lok Sabha election, there was sudden friction between Joseph and Mani's son after the father-son duo put their foot down when it came to selecting the candidate for the one seat that Mani's party gets.
When Joseph demanded the seat be given to his faction, the faters-n dueo shot it down This irked Joseph who announced that if need be, he will contest as a rebel.
To that extent, he started meeting the Church leadership and senior Congress leaders and said that he and his aides have been given a rough deal and sought their intervention.
But the soft spoken Joseph, after threatening to rock the boat, made a quick turnaround and announced that he will do nothing that will bring a bad name to his party and also to the United Democratic Front.
Later it became clear the sudden turn was because Joseph realised that Mani's health was fast deteriorating fast and beat a hasty retreat from his adamant stand.
Earlier, there was speculation that Jose K. Mani's wife would be drafted into full- time politics but sensing this could backfire, she herself announced that she is not going to enter politics.
Then, there is Mani's son-in law, an IAS officer who recently took voluntary retirement and had expressed his desire to enter politics. That did not evince much enthusiasm among the large pool of full-time politician's in Mani's party and his attempts to get a Lok Sabha seat failed to materialise.
Now, as things remain in a fluid state, the first signs if there is going to be a smooth transition will be known when the party decides to find a candidate for the Pala assembly constituency when the by-election is announced.
And if it goes smoothly, then it would be good for Mani's party. If not, his stock statement "We are a party that splits as we grow and grow as we split", might come into play.
(Sanu Goerge can be contacted at email@example.com)