Sonia Gandhi holds one-to-one meeting with party leaders

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday got a taste of factionalism in the party’s State unit when factional leaders accused each other of being hand in glove with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

While the ‘I’ faction accused the Chief Minister of striking a secret deal with the CPI (M), the ‘A’ faction alleged that their rivals were giving ammunition to the CPI (M) against the government. The drama unfolded during a series of one-to-one meetings that Ms. Gandhi had with the Congress leaders at Raj Bhavan on Monday morning to assess the political situation in the State.

‘I’ faction

The ‘I’ faction’s attacks were led by former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Muraleedharan, who reportedly told Ms. Gandhi that the Chief Minister appeared to be hand in glove with the CPI(M). The government appeared to have assisted the CPI(M) in the T.P. Chandrasekharan murder and the Data Centre cases in return for tuning down that party’s campaign against the Chief Minister in the solar and the gold smuggling cases. Mr. Muraleedharan said the Chief Minister’s Office was rudderless, with the Chief Minister unable to control its administration. Elected legislators were totally in the dark about developments in the State administration, which was accessible only to a few confidantes. The Chief Minister should change his style of functioning with a view to improving the image of the ruling front, and putting up a better performance in the Lok Sabha elections, he said.

Ms. Gandhi reportedly advised Mr. Muraleedharan to ensure good ties with the coalition partners, apparently keeping in mind the Indian Union Muslim League’s complaint that certain Congress leaders were branding the party as communal. Mr. Muraleedharan told her that the Congress leaders were forced to respond to some of the comments of the IUML leaders, who were also staking claim to sitting seats held by the Congress. But Ms. Gandhi insisted on ensuring good relations with the IUML.

Former Minister Pandalam Sudhakaran, in a note submitted to Ms. Gandhi, urged her not to shift Mr. Chennithala from his current post till the Lok Sabha elections were over.

‘A’ faction

The ‘A’ faction led by Minister for Culture K.C. Joseph and KPCC vice-president M.M. Hassan wanted effective intervention on the part of the high command to solve the problems in the party. The rival faction’s stand against the government was providing ammunition to the CPI (M). The positions of certain leaders were causing problems with the coalition partners, they told Ms. Gandhi.

Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran picked up the threads of the discussion he had with Mrs. Gandhi in New Delhi a few weeks ago. He pointed out the lack of coordination between the party and the government. Urgent proactive steps needed to be taken to improve the functioning of the party, the government, and the coalition. He reiterated the need to reconstitute the KPCC and other party committees, replacing them with slim panels.

Ms. Gandhi also met leaders of the Youth Congress, led by its State unit president Dean Kuriakose. She held separate discussions with Mr. Chandy, Mr. Chennithala, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor, and the office-bearers of various feeder organisations.