Kerala Congress(M)-Congress ties sour; divisions within both parties revealed
The belligerent stance of P.C. George, Government Chief Whip and Kerala Congress(M) vice-chairman, against a section of Congress leaders and the uncharacteristic audacity with which the Congress reacted to his outbursts during the past three days have strained the relations between the two parties and brought out the fault lines within each.
The Congress leaders, especially those close to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, have been annoyed with Mr. George ever since he fired the first salvo in the solar scam more than two months ago. His well-timed outbursts had helped in taking the controversy forward.
But, as a surprise to many, Mr. George seemed to have got tacit support from his party chairman, K.M. Mani, and a section in the Congress.
The Minister refused to openly condemn his statements, which went against the collective responsibility of the Cabinet.
The exasperated Congress leaders appeared to have no choice but to focus on resolving the main controversy, leaving Mr. George enough space to play his political games.
With the solar scam controversy entering a new, low-pitched phase, however, with the Left Democratic Front calling off its Secretariat siege, the local leadership of the Congress seems to have decided to take on Mr. George — not just verbally but also physically.
At public meetings, Mr. George was howled at, and during his journeys, shown black flags. On Saturday, at Mundakkayam, the police had to rescue him from an attack. Others who came to his rescue were not his own party men but Left sympathisers.
While Congress leaders stepped up their hostility reiterating their demand for Mr. George’s resignation on Sunday, Mr. George retorted that he was ready to put in his papers if the Chief Minister asked him to do so.
He would also listen to the president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee.
The ultimate decision would, however, have to be made by his party and its chairman, he said.
A section of the Congress leaders desisted from directly targeting Mr. George, bringing out the divisions within the party.
The Congress unit in the district remains heavily loaded in favour of the “A” faction, which is spearheading the anti-George campaign.
While Mr. George can take refuge in the fact that coalition partners had little scope to take on each other in the face of an election, the same fact could land Mr. Mani in a bind, as his party’s prospects in the Lok Sabha elections depends much on the goodwill of the Congress.
Mr. George’s outbursts do not have the support of all sections of his own party has been demonstrated many times.
However, with the senior political leadership showing the dexterity to resolve political issues outside the domain of politics, the possibility of the controversies ending up as a zero sum game could not be ruled out, at least for the time being.