Former state Congress chief VM Sudheeran, a persistent voice of dissent against the Congress state leadership in Kerala, targeted former chief minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday alleging that the latter gave him a cruel treatment during his term as the KPCC president.
Addressing a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram today, Sudheeran said Chandy was quite cruel to him and refused to cooperate with him. Sudheeran was the Congress state president between February 2014 and March 2017, the same time when Chandy served as the chief minister.
“As a Congressman, I have always tried to strengthen the party and sometimes I have not shied away from talking about issues publicly because I don’t want the party to be weakened. Unfortunately, Oommen Chandy, then CM, did not cooperate with me after I took over as PCC president. With much difficulty, I was able to meet him at his residence. And I still remember his response. He had a cold attitude towards me as if he was disinterested,” Sudheeran told reporters.
“I never had any intention to displace Chandy or anyone else, but still cruel treatment was meted towards me by many including Chandy himself. He did not attend the function when I took over as PCC president. He was in Trivandrum that day but he purposely did not come. Later, when I led the ‘Jana Paksha’ yatra, many within the party tried to defeat it. He (Chandy) inaugurated my yatra, but it was too uncomfortable for him to even take my name,” he added.
While Sudheeran had earlier attributed health reasons behind his resignation as KPCC president in 2017, he has now made it clear that deep dissensions within the official factions, known as ‘groups’, and their interference in his work led him to quit the post.
“As part of my efforts, I tried to strengthen the party by forming booth-level committees at the grassroots by bringing in new people. But then the group managers, after seeing my work, feared they would lose their influence over the local booth committees. Differences between the groups must be kept aside from the booth committees because grassroots-level workers are the actual strength of the party. I understood then that group managers don’t want the party to move ahead or grow in future,” he said.
Sudheeran’s latest comments come just a day after the KPCC issued an official whip to its leaders and office-bearers not to make comments in public against the party. For long, he was a part of the ‘A’ group of the party led by AK Antony which was then handed over to Chandy. But after the leadership change, he shifted his allegiance stating that he stood equidistant from both the official ‘A’ and ‘I’ groups.
Sudheeran, who made his way into the Congress politics through the students’ outfit ‘KSU’ and then the Youth Congress, has served as MLA, Speaker, Minister and MP.
The Congress in the state is mired in controversy over its offer of a Rajya Sabha seat to the Kerala Congress (M) even before the latter had officially rejoined the UDF coalition.
The decision, taken unilaterally by Chandy, KPCC president MM Hassan and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala without consulting the KPCC body or other leaders, has created deep divisions within the outfit. Several young leaders are now demanding a restructuring of the leadership.
Many leaders alleged that the present leadership had sold itself to smaller regional parties like the KC(M), which had left the UDF fold in 2016.
What has created further heartburn among the party is that the KC(M) decided to send Jose K Mani, its Lok Sabha MP from Kottayam, to the Rajya Sabha, essentially leaving the seat vacant and reducing the UPA tally in the lower house of the Parliament by one. In the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections, on the basis of their strength in the Kerala Assembly, the LDF can win two seats and the UDF one. While LDF has nominated Elamaram Kareem (CPM) and Binoy Viswam (CPI), the UDF candidate will be Jose K Mani.
The developments come as Chandy, the Congress’ tallest leader in the state, has been appointed as the AICC general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, virtually taking him out of state politics.