Factionalism, Modi factor may come up for discussions during her stay

All-India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi’s two-day visit to the State on September 29 and 30 is likely to be the highpoint in post-Onam political activity for the Congress party in the State.

The visit, which was originally scheduled earlier this month but had to be postponed owing to Ms. Gandhi’s indisposition, comes in the backdrop of a few political developments that have taken place since then. The first is the emergence of Narendra Modi as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Minister candidate, followed by factional tussle in the Congress and the concerns of the United Democratic Front (UDF) over the deteriorating image of the coalition.

The dates of her visits have been confirmed by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, but the programmes will have to be finalised soon after Onam holidays and it is generally believed that Ms. Gandhi will apportion the two days for party and State government functions. Ms. Gandhi is scheduled to inaugurate the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Development Studies, which is being developed as a think-tank of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee. She will also inaugurate the ‘Zero Landless’ scheme of the State government that envisages redistribution of land to the landless.

Meeting

In between, special meetings with leaders of the coalition partners is sure to take place, though it is doubtful whether they would be able to present their issues forcefully during these meetings.

Narendra Modi’s emergence in the national political landscape will prove to be a concern for some of the UDF partners, particularly the Indian Union Muslim League. Ms. Gandhi’s speeches will therefore be closely observed for the kind of message she would send across, particularly when the State unit of her party has been grappling with issues related to balancing minority-majority equations.

For the time being, the minority-majority problems have been sidelined by the solar scam, which has put Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on the backfoot. A strong Opposition agitation is still on seeking Mr. Chandy’s resignation and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) has decided to take the agitation to the next stage, promising a change in its format.

P.C. George, Government Chief Whip and Kerala Congress (M) vice-president, might have been reined in by his party leadership, but it is widely speculated that the letter he is purported to have written to Sonia Gandhi will surface once again for debate on the eve of her visit.

As far as factionalism is concerned, party workers here firmly believe that Ms. Gandhi’s visit will lead to some clear directions on the path forward ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, which would be a confidence building exercise not only for her party men, but the UDF partners.

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