This is the first instance after K Karunakaran's time that another leader has attacked Oommen Chandy so fearlessly.

How the nomination of an outsider to Rajya Sabha is wrecking the Congress in Kerala
news Politics Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 09:00

Nominating an 'outsider' to the Rajya Sabha (RS) has kicked up a furore in the Kerala unit of the Congress party. And the dust hasn’t settled yet. 

On Monday, in a meeting of A group — the faction headed by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, held in Thiruvananthapuram, it was reportedly decided that VM Sudheeran and PJ Kurien won’t be invited to the party programmes. They have also decided that if Sudheeran and Kurien continue to attack Chandy, the A group should react.

The Allegations

Sudheeran’s scathing criticism of Chandy, the strongest face of the party in the state, has been the most visible outcome of giving the seat to Kerala Congress (M) supremo KM Mani’s son Jose K Mani. 

Sudheeran, a party veteran and former president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, was also the first to come out against the decision.

The allegations raised by Sudheeran against Chandy are: Chandy is anti-party. He went even against the All India Congress Committee’s stand in signing the Vizhinjam port agreement. The agreement didn’t serve the interests of the state but that of the Adani group. 

Sudheeran told the media, "Chandy didn’t like me becoming the KPCC chief. He delayed his visit to the party headquarters to attend my swearing-in ceremony. When I was KPCC president, the then Chief Minister Chandy had shown a lukewarm attitude towards me. He displayed antipathy towards me even when I visited him at his home after becoming the KPCC president. Regarding the shutting down of bars, which didn’t follow the stipulated standards, what I demanded was to close down 418 bars. Seeing the huge backing for the decision by the media as well as the public, Chandy closed down all 730 bars. He is jealous; He inaugurated both my political rallies- the Janapaksha yatra and Janareksha yatra, but was very reluctant to mention my name in his speech.  

The young brigade of Hibi Eden (I) group, VT Belram (not part of any group), KS Sabarinathan (I group), Anil Akkara (I group) have all come out against the decision to nominate an ‘outsider’ to the RS. But among the seniors, only Sudheeran’s words stood out. “However, how long the young brigade’s protest would last, and what impact it would have, only time will tell. Sudheeran’s verbal attack however was powerful, similar to what those who would quit a party will do,” a source said.

The Repercussions

“This is the first time after K Karunakaran, the doyen of Congress politics, that someone has attacked Chandy so blatantly and the allegations are grave. And this is the first time that the ‘A’ group didn’t come up with a prompt response even after Chandy was publicly subjected to criticism, which is quite unusual. They took days to respond.,” a source said.

The impact he added was that the ‘I’ group within the Congress and the ruling Left Democratic Front would project that Chandy acted against AICC in Vizhinjam agreement. “Sudheeran’s move was fearless, like that of someone who has made up his mind to quit the party. What Sudheeran said was that Chandy went against the party’s apex council. This is serious and would having lasting implications. The LDF will use it as a political weapon against Chandy at the next given opportunity. The ‘I’ group led by Chandy’s rival and opposition leader Chennithala would also use it the same way,” the source said.

This would aggravate the existing crisis in the Congress, particularly after the Chengannur bye-election debacle. Chandy, a master of political games, is likely to come up with a counter-agenda. He is now busy revamping the Congress in Andhra Pradesh after being made the AICC General Secretary in-charge of the state.

Read: Wracked by infighting, Congress mulls new KPCC chief after Chengannur poll debacle

How Kerala Congress (M) got the Rajya Sabha seat

Chandy had supported PK Kunhalikutty’s idea of giving the RS seat to the Kerala Congress (M), an ally of the Congress in the United Democratic Front. Kunhalikutty is IUML’s senior leader. IUML is the largest ally of the Congress after the KC (M).

The decision to nominate Jose K Mani came after strong speculations that Kurien, the former deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, would be sent to the Upper House. This is what prompted Kurien to speak against Chandy.  

The 'dejected' leaders, mainly the young leaders have come out against the decision.

Giving away of the seat to Kottayam-based KC (M) has indeed come as a huge setback for the Congressmen who were yet to recover from the shock of the Chengannur bye-election results.

The juniors - irrespective of groups- were united initially to react when PJ Kurien's name did the rounds for nomination to the Upper House. What they felt was that the seat should be given to youngsters. But the worst was yet to come. The seat was given to KC (M) - the party which days ago had shared a bitter relation with the Congress and this came as a bolt from the blue.

Ramesh Chennithala also had no choice but to approve of Chandy’s decision to give the seat to KC (M) as Kunhalikutty was behind the move. Kunhalikutty is the most powerful leader of Indian Union Muslim League - the largest ally of the Congress in the UDF. Together, IUML and KC (M), can continue as a pressurising force within the UDF against Congress.  

KM Mani’s move

Mani’s KC (M), in a classic case of opportunistic politics, played its cards well to declare its support for Congress on May 22, just days ahead of the Chengannur bye-election. Though Mani’s move had no impact on the voters as the Congress lost the election miserably, the party rewarded him. The party’s doors were thrown open to KC (M), which came back into the Congress-led UDF on June 8.

Read: Months after breaking ties with UDF, Kerala Congress (M) back in its fold


Edited by Luke Koshi

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