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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Selection of district party chief exposes rift within Kerala Congress

A day after Chandy and Chennithala openly expressed their displeasure over their nominees not being considered as DCC presidents, senior Congress leader A V Gopinath, who lost the race for the Palakkad district, quit the party on Monday.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: August 31, 2021 6:04:29 am
The selection of a new crop of leaders has demonstrated the declining sway of senior leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, who would share the party slots at all rungs between them for nearly two decades.

Disquiet is brewing in the Kerala unit of the Congress over the appointment of party chiefs in 14 districts in the state. The selection of a new crop of leaders has demonstrated the declining sway of senior leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, who would share the party slots at all rungs between them for nearly two decades.

A day after Chandy and Chennithala openly expressed their displeasure over their nominees not being considered as DCC presidents, senior Congress leader A V Gopinath, who lost in the race for the Palakkad district, quit the party on Monday. Former party legislator K Sivadasan Nair and KPCC general secretary K P Anil Kumar were suspended from the party after they openly criticised the new list, while KPCC secretary P S Prasanth was expelled on Monday after he wrote to senior party leader Rahul Gandhi, raising allegations against AICC general secretary K C Venugopal. Prasanth, who had contested in the recent assembly elections, had come out against the appointment of Palod Ravi as DCC president in Thiruvananthapuram and had claimed that Venugopal is a Congress ‘terminator’ in Kerala.

Realising that the Congress in the state is emerging out of their shadows, Chandy and Chennithala said neither was consulted before the list of DCC chiefs was finalised. “A far better list could have been brought out if consultations were held,” Chandy said.

Upset over the party rejecting his nominees, Chennithala said group is a reality in the Congress. Apparently referring to KPCC president K Sudhakaran and Opposition leader V D Satheesan, Chennithala said, “the present leaders have been part of groups and acted as the group managers. After securing party positions, such leaders have now started denouncing groups. I can’t agree with that stand of leaders.”

Several young and middle-rung leaders, previously loyalists of Chandy or Chennithala, are now rallying behind the new leadership combine of state Congress president K Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan. They include Chandy’s confidant Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and former party state chief K Muraleedharan.

Sudhakaran said, “Till now, decisions had been taken by them (Chandy and Chennithala) without any discussions with others. It is quite natural that they get uneasy when that practice is over. Henceforth, only merit would matter in Congress. The days of groupism are over and the party would have to change into a semi-cadre nature. Congress is not the convergence of two groups.”

Indicating that the days of Chandy and Chennithala calling the shots are over, Satheesan said, “if the posts of the DCC presidents were to be shared between them (Chandy and Chennithala), then why we should continue as the opposition leader and the party president? They should not have reacted against the selection of DCC presidents. For the last 18 years, nobody in the party had reacted against their decisions. They should realise that a new leadership is in place.”

Chandy has been leading the A faction of the Congress after senior leader A K Antony quit as the chief minister and moved to Delhi in 2004. Chennithala, meanwhile, had taken over the mantle of I group after veteran leader K Karunakaran had walked out of the party with a rebel outfit. Since then, the two have been the magnates in the party, keeping the flock together within the two groups.

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