Former senior Congress leader PC Chacko was on Wednesday appointed as the Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP) new Kerala President by party supremo Sharad Pawar. A press statement issued by party General Secretary and former Union Minister Praful Patel, said Chacko, 74, has been asked to assume office immediately. He replaces veteran TP Peethamabaran, who has been heading the NCP's Kerala unit for some time now.
Incidentally, unlike the national level where it is allied with the Congress, the NCP in Kerala is part of the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF). Chacko in March announced his decision to quit the Congress, stating that it is difficult to be a party leader in Kerala as it is in the grips of faction leaders. In his heyday in state politics, Chacko was close to AK Antony and Oommen Chandy. When these leaders split from the Congress soon after the Emergency period, he went with them and won his only state Assembly elections in the 1980 polls when the Antony-Chandy combine was an ally of the then CPI(M) led political front and became Industries Minister in the EK Nayanar cabinet.
However, when Antony and Chandy returned to the Congress under Indira Gandhi in the early 1980s, Chacko stayed in the company of Pawar for some more time before returning. From 1991 to 1999, he won three Lok Sabha polls as a Congress nominee, but went into political hibernation after his loss in 1999. He returned once again to contest the 2009 Lok Sabha polls which he won from Thrissur.
In the 2014 polls, Chacko using his influence with the party high command, swapped his Thrissur seat with Chalakudy MP Dhanapalan, who accepted the decision with much reluctance. In the end, the Congress ended up losing both seats.
Chacko, due to his long stints in Delhi, had practically little following in Kerala and since his 2014 loss, he lost his grip in Delhi and even though he was put in a few committees in the party in Kerala, he found the going tough and called it a day to return to his old leader Pawar, who has instantly rewarded him with the top state post.
Incidentally Chacko has a job in his hand, as the two party legislators are at war over the cabinet post, which has gone to AK Saseendran, who was the Transport Minister in the outgoing cabinet.
The latest issue that has surfaced is Saseendran has been given the Forest portfolio and the party is understood to have expressed their displeasure over this and has sought one more department which has a public interface. Chacko's first task will be to tackle this.
And it also remains to be seen, if Chacko will engage in any sort of conciliation talks with Mani C Kappen, who was an NCP legislator from Pala, but quit the party when that seat was offered to Jose K Mani of the Kerala Congress (Mani), which had crossed over to the LDF from the Congress-led United Democratic Front.
Kappen, however, won a resounding victory and is now part of the UDF.