Sparks flew thick and fast at the Executive Committee meeting of the Congress's Kerala unit on Tuesday where former state chief VM Sudheeran came under severe attack, with some attributing the party's loss in 2016 assembly polls to his leadership.
The meeting, called to discuss the Congress defeat in the Chengannur assembly bye-election on May 28 and also the manner in which a Rajya Sabha seat was gifted to Kerala Congress-Mani, which returned to the Congress-led UDF, veered off course into a free for all when supporters of Sudheeran and the majority faction in the party led by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy took on each another.
Things even came to a stage where the proceedings had to be stopped for 10 minutes for things to cool down.
Venting his anger in what transpired in the executive, Sudheeran, talking to the media after coming out of the meeting, said that even though he had then said when he quit in 2017 as party president that he had health issues, there were other issues too.
"But that was just one issue... and another issue was, I just could not go forward as the party was heavily under the control of 'group managers', which was one reason for the downfall of the party, as several good workers in the party who had no affiliation to any group were not able to come up," he said.
Sudheeran also said another factor for the electoral setback in the 2016 was "faulty selection of Congress candidates which was done on group affiliations".
Responding to Sudheeran, veteran party legislator and former Minister KC Joseph dismissed his statement as nothing but an eyewash.
"If (then assembly Speaker) G. Karthikeyan was made the president, instead of Sudheeran, the then Oommen Chandy government would have returned to office. But (it didn't) because of Sudheeran, who as President, went on a rampage criticising each and every action of his own government... it came at the fag end of the government's tenure.
"See, in today's meeting there was a general consensus that there should be no washing dirty linen in public and see what he did, minutes after he came out," Joseph told the media.
Chandy, however, was absent, as he was in Andhra Pradesh, on his first visit after he was appointed General Secretary in charge of the state.
The Congress in Kerala for ages has always been divided between various factions led by senior leaders and since 2000, the major group is led by Chandy, while now Leader of Opposition in assembly Ramesh Chennithala leads another group while Sudheeran heads a third one, which has very few supporters. There is also another section, who are not part of any of these groups.