FOLLOWING LAST weekend’s debate on the poll debacle within the Kerala unit of the Congress, the demand is growing for a generation shift in the party leadership even as senior leaders such as Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala try to cling on to their position at the top.
Chandy, the former chief minister, his rival in the party Chennithala, and state Congress chief V M Sudheeran had buried their rivalry and reached an agreement to retain the status quo even before the party held a meeting of the elected legislators.
But several leaders, including former state unit president K Muraleedharan, have now come out against the bid by the trio to divide power among themselves.
Stating that the prevailing mood in the party is for a change at the top, state Congress vice-president V D Satheesan said, “The party requires a leadership that is credible, which can strengthen the secular stand, and has a face free of corruption stains. Many are indignant against the present leadership. People are looking for change.”
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Calling herself a victim of group and caste politics in the party, former AICC secretary Shanimol Usman recently wrote on Facebook, “Now merit means group loyalty and caste. If violent politics and communalism have to be opposed fiercely, a generation change in the party leadership is necessary.”
All India Youth Congress secretary Mathew Kuzhalnadan said the leaders at the top of the hierarchy have been at the helm for the last three or four decades, “silencing the voice of dissent and correction” all these years. “If we don’t react to the leadership that has taken the party to its present predicament, it would be a disservice to the party,’’ Kuzhalnadan said.
Sources said the feeling among many is that since the election debacle has clearly shown that the present leadership has “failed miserably”, there is “no wisdom” is continuing with it and expecting the leaders to strengthen the party. “They cannot take any revolutionary step to bring back the party’s credibility,” one Congress leader said. “This is an extraordinary situation that demands extraordinary decisions from the party high command.”
Many Congress leaders opposed to the Chandy and Chennithala factions are also indignant at senior leader A K Antony, who they blame for giving tacit support to the status quo.
Meanwhile, there is a bid to make Chandy the party state president, unseating the incumbent, V M Sudheeran. After the polls, Chandy has lost the post of Opposition leader to his rival Chennithala. As a rehabilitation package, Chandy was offered the post of UDF chairman, which is normally held by the Opposition leader himself. Chandy is seen to have declined that post as part of a tactical move.
Both Chandy and Chennithala factions have demanded that Sudheeran should go. They want Chandy to be the state Congress president and Chennithala as the Opposition leader in Assembly. Both leaders are expected to meet the party high command in the coming days.