The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC)'s settled practice of empowering All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi to select the party's State president seemed briefly threatened on Wednesday.
By some accounts, Congress leader T. Sarathchandra Prasad, an ‘I’ group loyalist, reportedly pitched himself as KPCC presidential candidate against incumbent K. Sudhakaran.
The KPCC has not commented on the alleged episode. Its spokespersons maintained that the meeting went according to plan.
An estimated 310 KPCC general body members convened Thursday to set in motion an organisational process that would select new office-bearers, notably the party's next KPCC president.
Various power centres in the KPCC had reportedly agreed to pass a resolution tasking Ms. Gandhi to name the KPCC president to avoid a contentious organisational election that could potentially render the party fractured in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
It was “generally agreed” that Mr. Sudhakaran would continue as KPCC president, subject to Ms. Gandhi’s endorsement. By some accounts, Mr. Prasad appeared miffed that Mr. Sudhakaran had “obliquely” supported Shashi Tharoor, MP’s, supposed candidature for AICC president by “calling for a conscience vote”.
Earlier, Mr. Tharoor had come under criticism within his own party for seeming to endorse the K-Rail project and lauding Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's development agenda. Later, Mr. Tharoor clarified that he had merely sought time to study the scheme and had endorsed Kerala's development, not any particular political entity.
Congress leaders had also accused Mr. Tharoor of leading an "ivory tower existence" far removed from the party's rank and file travails. Such aspects supposedly influenced Mr. Prasad's reported move to contest against Mr. Sudhakaran.
Some KPCC insiders read pre-planned group politics into Mr. Prasad’s “surprise challenge”. Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala, who supposedly helms the ‘I’ group, had moved the resolution tasking Ms. Gandhi to nominate the next KPCC president in lieu of an election. By some accounts, Mr. Chennithala had persuaded Mr. Prasad to withdraw his claim.
However, some KPCC insiders perceived a subtle move to gain purchase for group leaders "felt sidelined" by the current KPCC and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaderships.
The KPCC general body will convene again to finalise the list of new KPCC office-bearers, working committee members, AICC members and KPCC election committee.
Congress pradesh returning officer G. Parameshwar and assistant returning officer Arivu Azhakan were present.