Analysis | Congress row over joint campaign on CAA continues to simmer

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala leading the joint protest by the ruling LDF and Opposition UDF at Martiyers' Column against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CCA), 2019 in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019.   | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar

The Congress row over last week’s joint protest campaign of the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) continues to simmer despite attempts by party leaders to douse it.

The row came out in the open when Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Mullapally Ramachandran expressed his opposition to the joint campaign. There have been several attempts since then by the UDF leadership to make it clear that the joint campaign lasting three hours was in no way intended to blunt the ongoing agitations against the Pinarayi government and that its main objective was to send a message that Kerala was united in its opposition to the CAA.

The UDF high power committee, which met soon after went on to announce separate campaigns against the CAA and the unpopular policies of the LDF government, including its failure to arrest price rise with appropriate intervention in the open market. But this apparently has not impressed a few of the leaders who have sought to fan the discontentment.

The row should have died down at least on the basis of the positive response that the joint campaign received, but reactions and counter-reactions have only served to give an impression about differences among senior leaders. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who took the initiative to organise the joint campaign with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Martyr’s column in the State Capital, has expressed his displeasure at the contrived moves to project the differences.

Mr. Ramachandran, however, continued to take a hard line, ruling out the possibilities of any ties with the CPI(M). He continued to lash out at the UDF leadership for undertaking the joint campaign despite the fact that it got the support of the two major factions in the Congress led by Mr. Chennithala and Congress Working Committee member Oommen Chandy.

KPCC revamp

As far as Mr. Ramachandran is concerned, there are two parallel issues before him. Apart from the opposition to the joint campaign, he is still grappling with the reconstitution of the KPCC, caught as it is in the faction tussle for political space. On the joint campaign, Mr. Ramachandran appears to be misreading the undercurrents that the CAA has triggered off in the minority-dominated politics of the State.

But he is on the right track in expressing his frustrations at going ahead with the party revamp and the attempts of the two factions to pin him down as a non-working president with a jumbo-size committee with a plethora of office-bearers that includes working presidents.

Mr. Ramachandran has also candidly expressed his reservations at a jumbo committee and has demanded a “qualitative” rather than a “quantitative” body to run party affairs. The Congress and the UDF have announced their own parallel agitations against the LDF and the Modi governments. But in order to capitalise on the mounting popular discontentment, the Congress party’s reconstitution cannot be delayed. The grey area is there somewhere between the gains the Congress has got in the aftermath of the joint campaign by consolidating its support from the minority communities and the losses it might suffer from the delay in reorganising its affairs.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 3:21:28 PM |

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