Over a month after V.M. Sudheeran quit suddenly as state party chief, the Congress in Kerala is all set to elect its new state president through the ballot.
The Congress party in Kerala is divided between the factions headed by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, with the former leading the majority faction.
Last month, Sudheeran quit on grounds of ill-health, raising eyebrows. The party then appointed senior-most vice president M.M. Hassan as the interim president. Chandy, though he has been a legislator winning every election from Puthupally assembly constituency since 1970, is yet to hold any post in the party in the state.
The party high command decided not to nominate a new president, especially after Chandy protested when they nominated 14 district party chiefs earlier this year.
Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor last month came down as an emissary of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi and was closeted with Chandy for over two hours, in an attempt to make him change his mind and take over as the new state unit chief. However, the meeting failed to yield the desired result.
After the Congress-led UDF lost last year's assembly polls to the Left Democratic Front, Chandy had announced that he will not take up any post whether in the party or as Leader of Opposition or as chairman of the UDF. Despite several rounds of talks at various levels, Chandy stuck to his position. He has demanded that if the Congress is to be rejuvenated, then the policy of nomination should end and every leader in the party should be elected by the rank and file of the party.
The party high command has acceded to Chandy's demand, and it announced that organisational polls will be held. A membership drive has already begun on May 1, and it will end on May 15.
The last time a state president was elected was in 1991 when Vayalar Ravi with the full backing of K. Karunakaran defeated A.K. Antony, who was fielded by Chandy. Now all eyes are on Chandy to see if he will contest for the post of president.
When asked, Chandy replied with his characteristic smile that there is enough time to decide on that.