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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

After poor UDF show in Kerala assembly elections, calls for change in Congress unit

With the UDF reduced to 41 seats, six less than its 2016 tally, a demand for an overhaul in the state party unit has emerged from within the party as well as its disgruntled allies. The Congress, which contested 93 seats, could win only 21 seats.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: May 5, 2021 7:19:57 am
The Congress leadership has not reacted to the election rout or fixed a meeting of its political affairs committee to review the situation.

VOICES OF dissent in the Congress against the state leadership appear to be getting louder following the defeat of the party-led UDF in the Kerala assembly elections.

With the UDF reduced to 41 seats, six less than its 2016 tally, a demand for an overhaul in the state party unit has emerged from within the party as well as its disgruntled allies. The Congress, which contested 93 seats, could win only 21 seats.

The Congress leadership has not reacted to the election rout or fixed a meeting of its political affairs committee to review the situation. Party state president Mullappally Ramachandran and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala have refused to comment on the UDF’s pathetic show before a detailed evaluation.

However, knives are out in the party. Setting the tone of demand for change, Congress MP Hibi Eden said in a Facebook post: “Why do we still need a sleeping president.”

Party Alappuzha district president M Liju quit his post, taking moral responsibility for the loss of all but one seat in the district. UDF candidate K K Shaju, who lost in Mavelikkara seat, blamed Congress working president Kodikunnil Suresh MP for the defeat.

Congress sources said there is a growing feeling in the party that the present leadership should go. Many leaders have raised the demand, the sources said, without naming anyone. “But, it is up to the party high command to take a final call. Since the national leadership is also on a sticky wicket, we are not sure about the outcome,” said a senior leader.

Congress state vice-president T Siddique, who won Kalpetta seat in Wayanad weathering opposition from within the party, said the party system at the booth level is very weak at many places. “Hence, the Congress could not mobilise votes even from its traditional vote banks. The massive verdict UDF got during the Lok Sabha elections [winning 19 out of 20 seats] made it overconfident that the coalition would come back naturally in the assembly election,’’ he said.

Siddique said a public perception had been created in Kerala that whatever be the achievements, the incumbent government would be unseated. The UDF faulted this time by banking heavily upon that perception. “After every electoral rout, there would be a panel to study the reasons. But so far no action has been taken against anyone responsible for anti-party activities during the elections,” he said.

Senior UDF leader and Kollam MP N K Premachandran blamed organisational weakness of the UDF.

“The UDF had raised several genuine issues against the CPI (M) government and made it retract many controversial decisions. But there was no coordinated election mechanism in the UDF during the campaign. Barring Rahul Gandhi’s enthusiastic campaign leg in Kerala, there was no concerted attempt by the UDF to reach to the people with issues. The present nominated committees should go. The UDF can go ahead only after corrective steps,” said Premachandran.

Senior UDF leader and Kerala Congress chairman P J Joseph told reporters in Thodupuzha that groupism in Congress proved costly for the UDF. “The intervention of Congress national leadership did not help change the situation. There was no effective coordination between the Congress and the allies. The Congress should think about why it could win only 21 of the 93 seats it contested,” said Joseph, whose party won two out of 10 seats.

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