Along with Kharge, former Puducherry CM V Vaithilingam spoke to MLAs most of whom reportedly asked for a fresh face to be brought in to head the KPCC.

Sonia Gandhi on the left and KPCC president Sudhakaran on the right
news Politics Wednesday, June 09, 2021 - 19:33

After the debacle in the 2021 Assembly polls in Kerala, a change of guard in Kerala was in the offing and Congress leader from Kannur K Sudhakaran was the frontrunner for the post of the KPCC president replacing Mulappally Ramachandran. The leader who has been controversial for his misogynistic and casteist remarks emerged as the consensus candidate as he is believed to be equidistant from leaders of both factions--Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, say Congress insiders in Delhi.

The AICC had appointed a team of observers headed by senior leader Mallikarjuna Kharge. The team spoke to several leaders in Kerala, collating their opinions and after many rounds of meetings, reportedly told the high command in their report that the main reason for the humiliating loss, the biggest one in over four decades, is the factionalism in the Congress party in the state.

Six leaders were shortlisted for heading the KPCC and the names included K Sudhakaran, Shashi Tharoor, PT Thomas and Kodikkunnil Suresh. Along with Kharge, former Puducherry CM V Vaithilingam spoke to MLAs most of whom reportedly asked for a fresh face to be brought in to head the PCC.

The previous president, Mulappally Ramachandran, insiders say had been following Chennithala’s orders over the last one year. Many in KPCC started viewing him as a puppet of the Leader of the Opposition. Though the clamour for change had begun after the loss in local body elections in December 2020, it was put on hold by the high command till after Assembly polls as new office bearers will not have time to settle in.

The Congress leaders in Delhi believe that Sudhakaran’s sexist statements did not damage the party. Whereas they have been told by the state leaders that Mulappaly and Chennithala’s attack on CM Pinarayi Vijayan and then Health Minister KK Shailaja cost the party many sympathisers.

Another factor that catapulted Sudhakaran to the front is his Kannur connection. He is known to have a reasonable grip on CM Vijayan’s home district of Kannur where he served as DCC president after winning organisation elections in 1991. He has also served as a MLA from Kannur for three consecutive terms--in 1996, 2001 and 2006. The AICC observers reportedly told the Gandhis that if he could breach the Left bastion, it would help them revive the party.  As opposed to both Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, many leaders who spoke to the AICC team of observers reportedly said that Sudhakaran is a more hands on and approachable leader. Most importantly, he had the backing of KC Venugopal, General Secretary in-charge of Organisation.  

Sudhakaran’s closeness with BJP leaders has been on display quite a few times. CPI leader MA Baby on his FaceBook post wrote “ What possible message is Congress giving by appointing a man who compromises with RSS and communalism as its president in Kerala?” But sources say that Sudhakaran has used this proximity to his advantage as a bargaining chip with the Congress. Almost six months ago, he told party leaders that the BJP had approached him to join them in the state. As the rumour spread that he may go to the BJP and take along a few leaders, the high command swooped in to placate him.

With his track record of distasteful comments, Sudhakaran reportedly has been told to not make any controversial comments in the media. To ensure that the factionism is kept at bay, he has also been instructed to meet all the senior leaders, even those who opposed his appointments, a Delhi source said. And that all the DCC presidents as well as PCC office bearers should be evaluated regularly to ensure they do not get complacent, the source added.

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