Monday, Jan 30, 2023

Congress in a no-win situation as Kerala chief lands it in sticky ‘pro-RSS’ territory

In trying to score points against CPM, Sudhakaran leaves Congress facing questions from rivals as well as ally IUML

Sudhakaran has hit self goals against the Congress, at a time when it is trying to hold on to ally IUML. (Facebook/K Sudhakaran)

At a time when Rahul Gandhi is leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra with a stridently anti-RSS message, the Congress in Kerala finds itself on the wrong foot over two successive statements by its state chief K Sudhakaran that are being read as pro-Sangh.

Sudhakaran, a Lok Sabha MP, was trying to score some points against the ruling CPI(M) – the Congress’s principal opposition in Kerala – by projecting it as the bigger enemy. However, in the process, he has hit self goals against the Congress, at a time when it is trying to hold on to ally IUML.

First, on November 2, Sudhakaran claimed to have provided protection to RSS shakhas in Kerala in the face of threats from Communists in home district Kannur, during his days in the Congress (Organisation), 50 years back. On Monday, attending a party function in Kannur, Sudhakaran said first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was “magnanimous” enough to induct RSS leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee as a minister in his Cabinet, lauding this “large-heartedness to even compromise with Communal fascism”.

The CPI(M) seized on the remarks as proof of Sudhakaran being “anti-minority”, and asked the IUML to consider whether it should continue with the Congress. CPI(M) state secretary M V Govindan claimed Sudhakaran had actually sided with those who had vandalised mosques during the Thalasseri communal riots of 1971.

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The BJP was as quick on the uptake, with state president K Surendran saying: “It is very clear that Sudhakaran’s mind is with the BJP. Many Congress leaders share his views. They are facing uncertainty due to the clout the IUML wields in the Congress and UDF. We are ready to give protection to such Congress leaders,’’ he said. On the IUML, Surendran said that it was anyway planning to move to the CPI(M)-led LDF, and would use this as an excuse to do so.

The IUML, which has been weighing its options as the CPI(M) emerges as the main voice against Hindutva politics in Kerala, has also refused to let the Congress off the hook. The party warned that remarks such as those by Sudhakaran could affect the unity of the Congress-led UDF coalition. IUML leader M K Muneer reminded Sudharakan of Rahul Gandhi’s statement that “anyone with RSS mentality should leave the Congress”.

However, the Congress is caught in a bind. Slated to discuss the issue on Wednesday, it is unlikely to demand any action against Sudhakaran over the issue, as that would be construed as proof of the IUML calling the shots in party. The BJP already accuses the Congress of appeasement politics, thus steadily increasing its own support base among Hindus in the state.


Even the timing couldn’t be worse for the Congress. The CPI(M) is currently on the war path against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, having built its government’s fight against him as one against the saffronisation of higher education. The Congress fears losing both ways on this – if it sides with the movement against the Governor, it would be going with bitter rival CPM; if it goes against the movement, it could be painted by its rivals as pro-RSS. UDF allies like the IUML and RSP have earlier called for not supporting Khan in any way.

Meanwhile, say some Congress leaders, they have lost a golden opportunity to put the shoe on the CPI(M)’s foot, by raising the recent CPI(M)-BJP alliance in cooperative polls in West Bengal.

First published on: 15-11-2022 at 19:42 IST
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