Sudheeran has his work cut out while preparing for polls

Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s pep talk on factional politics and the need for unity appears to have put the party workers in the State on election mode, with hopes being expressed all round that the party will be able to field candidates who can win.

The upcoming week will be hectic for Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president V.M. Sudheeran, with several important meetings lined up. The party-government coordination committee meeting will be held in Kollam on Monday, followed by the KPCC executive committee meeting on February 19. These two meetings will give a general idea on whether Ms. Gandhi’s call to shun factional politics will work. The KPCC executive will be a jumbo meeting, with nearly 400 leaders, including permanent and special invitees, attending it.

Though Mr. Sudheeran has promised to create political space for those eclipsed by factionalism, he would soon have to spell out how he proposes to achieve the objective since the party is now divided between two major factions. Several leaders in the State hold the view that factionalism in the State unit of the party will remain.

Congress MP K. Sudhakaran was merely reflecting this line of thinking when he publically stated here on Sunday that Congress groups will continue to exist.

Sources point out that factional politics in the Kerala unit of Congress has been rooted in communal configuration.

Even while the party leaders swear by merit in fielding candidates for elections, most often communal factors play an important role in the selection process, they point out.

Mr. Chandy and Mr. Chennithala began their innings by swearing against factionalism, after the late K. Karunakaran split the party. But five years later, the two ended up mobilising party workers based on the same agenda they initially opposed, they say.

A major hurdle that Mr. Sudheeran faces is carrying Chief Minister Oommen Chandy along. Mr. Chandy has already set a pace of functioning that has proved to be popular in public perception. At times, he has also pushed certain important policy initiatives without waiting for the party or even the United Democratic Front liaison committee to discuss them. Mr. Chandy’s response to Mr. Sudheeran’s installation is a clear indication that he is unlikely to change his functioning style.

Opposite views

The two leaders have diametrically opposite stands on a lot of developmental issues. They might avoid a direct showdown owing to the imperatives of the Lok Sabha elections, but somewhere down the line their divergent perceptions are bound to show up.

Sources point out that this might force Mr. Sudheeran to lean on Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, who now heads a strong faction, for support. Several Congress leaders affirm that the new KPCC president will not be able to run the show without the support of either of the groups. Therefore, Mr. Sudheeran’s responses in the coming days will be keenly watched, it is felt.

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