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KPCC elections: Burnt by Solar scam, Congress in Kerala has to find a leader who can keep BJP at bay

Other contenders being talked about are K Sudhakaran, the party’s big leader in the CPM stronghold of Kannur, and V D Satheeshan, the KPCC vice-president and a member of the ‘I’ group.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi | Updated: October 19, 2017 11:31 am
Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, Kerala Congress, KPCC, KPCC elections, Kerala elections, kerala politics, kerala polls, For the KPCC chief’s job, alongside demands for a leader with a ‘clean image’, what’s integral to understand is the nitty-gritty of the factional politics of the Congress’ state unit. (File Photo)

Between the BJP trying to make inroads into the Kerala electorate and the CPM using the anti-BJP emotions to strengthen its own base is the Congress, stuck in a time-warp of its own. The party with just 22 seats in the state Assembly is bracing for what are considered to be stormy organisational elections which would see the appointment of the new president and members of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). If the heavy defeat in the Assembly elections last year was not enough, the recent vigilance inquiry ordered by the CPM-led LDF government in the solar scandal, in which several top leaders of the Congress have been named in a judicial commission report, has dealt a serious blow to the party.

“The leaders named in the solar scandal report are unlikely to figure as contenders for KPCC chief. The truth is that there is no clarity,” said Sunnykutty Abraham, political commentator and former COO of Jaihind TV, run by the state unit of the Congress.

“I think they are waiting for the report to be made public. And then there could be a decision,” said Abraham referring to the judicial commission report which has been submitted to the government.

For the KPCC chief’s job, alongside demands for a leader with a ‘clean image’, what’s integral to understand is the nitty-gritty of the factional politics of the Congress’ state unit. The party’s two chief groups are the ‘A’ group (stands for A K Antony) but now led by former chief minister Oommen Chandy and the wider ‘I’ group (stands for Indira Gandhi) headed by Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala. There are other smaller factions led by those who do not associate with either of the major factions. Since Chennithala is the present LoP, the ‘A’ group faction headed by Chandy wants the KPCC post for themselves. With Chandy facing ‘solar’ heat himself, his election to the post is ruled out. Benny Behanan, a Chandy loyalist and general secretary of the KPCC, was seen as the candidate of the ‘A’ group but his alleged involvement in the solar scam is also seen as hurting him.

“The problem is that old leaders of the party are not making way for younger leaders to come up. Look at the BJP. The old guard there has vanished. In the Congress, big groups still exist. Organic changes are not happening within the party,” said Jacob George, a political journalist who has covered the Congress extensively.

“If the Congress crumbles, the BJP, which is trying to carve its space, could move in. Minorities are fearing that. There’s not a lot of space for three parties in Kerala’s political landscape,” added George.

Also at play are regional and religious equations. Since Chennithala belongs to a Hindu Nair family, the party would ideally want to grant an Ezhava or Christian leader the state president’s post in order to strengthen its grip especially in central Kerala. A leader like K V Thomas, MP from Ernakulam and an influential member of the Church, could be a nominee. Thomas could also neutralise the BJP’s attempts at wooing the Church through the appointment of Alphons Kannanthanam as a minister at the Centre.

Other contenders being talked about are K Sudhakaran, the party’s big leader in the CPM stronghold of Kannur, and V D Satheeshan, the KPCC vice-president and a member of the ‘I’ group.

The recent ‘hartal’ called by the Congress in Kerala against the policies of the state and Centre was seen as an indication of the party trying to find space in the discourse. A victory for the Congress-ally Indian Union Muslim League, in spite of a significant reduction in votes, in Vengara has managed to offer temporary relief to the party.

But political watchers say imminent course-correction steps are necessary for the party.

“It’s only because of the leadership that the party is in such a condition. BJP is making progress at the cost of the Congress. It’s the UDF (Congress-led coalition) that’s facing erosion of votes, not the LDF,” said Abraham.

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  1. C
    Oct 20, 2017 at 10:10 pm
    The Congress in Kerala has weak leadership at the moment. Both KPCC President M.M.Hassan and Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennitala do not have any mass following and enjoy their present position due to group politics. The BJP is gaining ground in Kerala mainly due to the ineffective UDF leadership.
    1. K
      Oct 20, 2017 at 6:42 pm
      Kerala politics is one of the dirtiest in India where both Congress and Communists openly appease communities and leaders with communal and anti national association. The communists allowed Muslim League to have strong foothold in Kerala politics by taking support of Muslim League while Congress in the earlier stage openly supported Christians by associating with Kerala Congress. Certain separate districts were allocated by both the parties based on communal lines to keep these communities happy. Malappuram district is the hotbed of jihadist activities in Kerala. The former Congress of CM of Kerala is said to be connected with ISRO spy scandal to fix his then political opponent Karunakaran which had, people say, our enemy countrys involvement. Our cryogenic engine project was substantially delayed as a result of this. Both congress and communists have been helping each other when they come to power and all the misdeeds are forgotten as soon as the rival political party comes to power
      1. Cherian Mani
        Oct 20, 2017 at 7:31 am
        Dare Congress Party to hold KPCC elections DEMOCRATICALLY not Sonia "selecting" sycophants. If this happens "the Party will be over"in Kerala. The high-command knows it. The filthy rich sponsors who are keeping the Party alive knows it. And the whole world knows it.
        1. A
          ak dev
          Oct 19, 2017 at 4:15 am
          If any party has to be kept at bay, it's the Congress and not BJP because Congress symbolizes corruption, murder, rape, loot and cheating. BJP symbolizes the future of India. Congress must be dumped into gutters of Kerala.
          1. R
            Oct 19, 2017 at 2:11 am
            CPM used to win using A anandan's stature and the Ezwa community he belongs to. Now after dumping him now once elections are over, they have altready alienated Ezwas. Once BJP makes some inroads in Nair and Ezwas they will be top party as communists and congies have to share muslim votes along with their 'secular' alliance partners Muslim League and Madanani's PDF. Even Christians who are upset with islamization project in kerala openly supported by CPM and Congress are drifting towards BJP. Christians already vote BJP in Goa, many NE states of India. Next round elections across kerala will throw-out new combinations and it is to be seen who will be pushed to third slot is it communists or congress! What happened in WB can happen in Kerala where both CPM and Congress were irrelevant by TC with BJPs backing in past. Now Momota also is scared of BJP there! Tripura, ther eis possibility of BJP defeating CPM. No wonder CPM is in killing spree in Kerala to stop such thing happening.
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