It was just the other day that a whole battalion of Congress leaders marched up to Delhi to sort out their rout in the recently concluded assembly polls in Kerala. That many wanted the current Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president VM Sudheeran out of the picture was an open secret.
His fault apparently was his concerted efforts to steer the state unit of the Indian National Congress (INC) out of the political muck it loves to indulge in. Sudheeran was in the news for pulling up party stalwarts of the likes of former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, the current Leader of the Opposition on various occasions for what he considered breach of political trust.
Sudheeran was also the one who did not want tainted leaders to be given another chance at the poll hustlings. With quite a few names of the top brass in the United Democratic Front (UDF) -headed by the INC- being bandied about, this naturally did not garner him many supporters from within the coalition as well as his own party.
But the party high command voiced its displeasure through All India Congress Committee (AICC) vice president Rahul Gandhi who reportedly favoured Sudheeran and asked the state leaders to get their act together for a change.
So while the Congress factionalism in Kerala seems to have been put on hold for the time being, neighbouring Tamil Nadu is witnessing a literal corporate style interview-round by the party high command for the numerous aspirants to the TNCC chief post lying vacant with EVKS Elangovan’s resignation.
Elangovan had to pay the price for the party’s dismal performance in the state polls held in May. Some factions like the one headed by TNCC vice president APCV Shanmugham, who himself had put in his papers- are still rooting for Elangovan’s reinstatement. They believe that it was he who kept the party together at a time, when quite a number of Congress leaders left the party along with GK Vasan to form the Tamil Maanila Congress over the past 20 months.
Former Union Minister of Shipping G K Vasan had broken away from the party in 2014 to revive the Tamil Maanila Congress that was launched by his late father G K Moopanar in 1996.
Peter Alphonse was one among the many leaders who followed suit, but returned to the mother fold after having spent a year with the Maanila folks. And now, he is considered as one of the top contenders for the role of TNCC chief, as his supporters are confident he would be able to lure back the prodigal sons who had gone astray in Vasan’s company.
Others include former Chennai deputy mayor ‘Karate’ Thyagarajan, Dr. S Vijayadharani, EM Sudharsana Natchiyappan, S Thirunavukkarasar, K Jayakumar, A Chellakumar , ex-MLA K Gopinath, former MP Manicka Tagore and SH Vasantha Kumar.
Almost all of them have had the opportunity to argue their case in front of party supremo Sonia Gandhi, though it is not clear whether Gopinath was pitching for himself or was a mere emissary of former Union Minister K.V. Thangkabalu.
What Thirunavukkarasar has going in his favour is the fact that he had helped Rahul and team to tide over the crisis that had broken out during the Andhra-Telengana bifurcation.
Thyagarajan is an ex-vice-president of the Youth Congress, though he ran out of luck in the assembly polls when he lost the Mylapore seat in May.
Reports abound on how the top brass is looking for someone who could synchronize the various factions with a clear-cut vision for the party in Tamil Nadu, in terms of both medium and long-term goals in the prevalent socio-political scenario in the state.
But sources say that unless autonomy is granted from above, the party would continue to suffer greatly, as regional politics demanded a leader well-versed with the on-ground situation in the state.
With TNCC seeing as many as 14 presidents in the past seven years, party workers are skeptical on how effective any leader can be, unless he or she is given a free hand and a longer tenure in running the party in a vibrantly political state like TN.
The same applies to Kerala too, where rumbles are to be heard from within party circles over how the high command thrusts a KPCC chief on them, without taking into account the nitty-gritty of grass-root reality.