The Congress party in Kerala appears to be headed for a new phase in factionalism, a fallout of the confusion over Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala’s induction into the Oommen Chandy Cabinet.
Mr. Chennithala has already indicated in as many words that cracks had appeared in the cordial relationship he has had with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for the last several years. A cautious Chief Minister has declined to be drawn into a public debate on certain remarks made by Mr. Chennithala the other day. “All problems in the Congress will be sorted out through discussions,” he has said maintaining that he does not believe that Mr. Chennithala would have made the remarks.
Mr. Chandy and Mr. Chennithala have been working in tandem for several years now. There had been some occasions in the past when the two differed on certain issues. At one point of time, Mr. Chennithala had even gone to the extent of complaining that the Chief Minister was not consulting the party on crucial policy matters. Such problems had been sorted out either through discussions or by glossing over the differences.
The tussle to wrest control of the Kerala Students Union and the Youth Congress had found the two leaders getting caught in the web of factional politics, but both had taken care to keep such factional aspirations a low-key affair. It is this cosy relation that has got disrupted over the aborted move to induct Mr. Chennithala into the United Democratic Front (UDF) Cabinet. Both the leaders have accepted the reality of factional politics in the State unit of the party.
It has to be seen how far the Congress high command would permit factionalism against the backdrop of the coming Lok Sabha elections. The high command is very much worried about the majority-minority issues that the party is facing in Kerala. It is also worried about the strained relations between the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the party leadership here. The NSS has been a steadfast supporter of the Congress and the UDF. What is more worrying for the high command is that there is hardly any opening for dialogues with the NSS leadership to sort out the issues. Mr. Chennithala also has been blacklisted by the NSS leadership, which has come out with hitting statements against Mr. Chandy. The contours of Congress factionalism, according to senior party sources, will depend on the high command’s perceptions on these issues.
In the meantime, Electricity and Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammed has called on the KPCC president and this has set off another round of speculations on the new phase in factionalism. Party sources say that Mr. Mohammed, who has been perceived to be moving closer to Mr. Chennithala, has discussed the factional fallout of the aborted Cabinet reshuffle.