Conflicting factional equations in the Congress Kerala unit complicate selection of Opposition Leader

Kerala Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala (centre) along with KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran (right) and UDF convener M.M. Hassan. (file photo)   | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

Conflicting factional equations seemed to have complicated the selection of the next Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader in Kerala.

The I-group, led by Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, arguably dominated the CLP. It purportedly commanded the allegiance of an estimated 12 out of the 21 Congress legislators. V. D. Satheeshan, another contender to the post, is also reckoned to be an I-group leader.

A-group veteran P. T. Thomas is also in the running for the post alongside Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan. Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy heads the A-group.

Mr. Chandy has not revealed his choice. Nevertheless, the opposing camps have claimed his "silent support".

Mr. Satheeshan's bloc maintained that legislators, primarily youngsters, had crossed factional lines to name him their CLP leadership choice. The Chennithala camp suggested that it had the upper hand in the CLP and the tacit support of United Democratic Front (UDF) allies.

Pressure of precedent

A party insider said that pressure of precedent might fetter Mr. Chennithala's chances. Mr. Chandy had quit as CLP leader after the UDF lost the 2016 Assembly elections, paving the way for Mr. Chennithala's ascension as the Opposition Leader.

On the contrary, Mr. Chennithala's track record of digging out official corruption and bringing them to public notice might stand him in good stead in front of the Congress national leadership. Both Mr. Satheeshan and Mr. Thomas had also spearheaded high-profile opposition forays against the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the previous Assembly.

The Congress also reportedly felt pressured that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had stolen a march on the UDF by quickly naming its CLP leader, forming the Cabinet and assigning portfolios without any hint of strain.

A party insider said a panel headed by Ashok Chavan is likely in Kerala soon to discuss Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) reorganisation. He said any change in CLP leadership was likely to reflect in the KPCC hierarchy sooner or later.

The move to name the CLP leader has gained urgency, with the first session of the 15th Legislative Assembly to convene in Thiruvananthapuram on May 24.

Generational shift

K. Muraleedharan, MP, told reporters on Friday that a decision was likely in the next two days. He said a generational shift in leadership was imperative to take the party forward. Mr. Muraleedharan said he was willing to make way for the next generation.

He also noted that group equations should not govern leadership choices. Rajmohan Unnithan, MP, also voiced a comparable opinion.

Along with 17 other Congress MPs from Kerala, Mr. Muraleedharan and Mr. Unnithan had interacted with a panel led by Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress leader in the Rajya Sabha, and AICC general secretary M. A. Vaidyalingam, on May 18 to articulate, in private, their choice of the next Opposition leader in Kerala. The panel had met Congress MLAs on May 18 individually and recorded their preferences.

It had also sought the opinion of members of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the KPCC.

Congress Working Committee (CWC) member A. K. Antony and AICC general secretary (Organisation) K. C. Venugopal are likely to have a say in the matter.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 5:40:59 AM |

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