“Those who come to the top have no ability. The leadership should be handed over to the youth,” said Congress mouthpiece Veekshanam in a stinging piece.

Wracked by infighting Congress mulls new KPCC chief after Chengannur poll debacle
news Politics Saturday, June 02, 2018 - 19:05

All is not well within the Kerala unit of the Congress party. The bye-poll debacle in Chenagnnur has evoked a stormy discussion in the party. While Congress President Rahul Gandhi has reportedly asked party leaders to be in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday, the state leadership has been flayed by the rank and file as well.

Claiming that the Congress party is dead, party mouthpiece Veekshanam on Saturday came out with a scathing piece on its leaders.

“The leaders are interested only in factional feuds. Kissing the hands of religious heads and bowing to their feet shouldn’t be the interest of the party. Those who come to the top have no ability. The leadership should be handed over to the youth,” the mouthpiece says.

KPCC president likely to be removed soon

Meanwhile, a change in the state leadership is imminent. Discussions to remove MM Hassan as president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) have been there for some time with the High Command waiting for the bye-poll to conclude. Hassan, had been appointed as interim president in March 2017.

The bye-poll debacle has further intensified the discussions. “It is likely that the KPCC president will be removed, but it’s not related to the bye-poll as the discussion was there earlier. Who will replace him has to be decided by the High Command,” said M Liju, president of District Congress Committee Alappuzha.

Top contenders for the post

Taking into account the factional feud in the Congress, the KPCC President post should go to the Oommen Chandy-led ‘A’ group. This as the Ramesh Chennithala, who heads the ‘I’ faction,  is the Leader of the Opposition. 

After VM Sudheeran quit the post in 2017, former MLA Benny Behanan’s name had been doing the rounds. However, it appears unlikely that Benny will be given the top job to lead the Congress in Kerala as he lacks wider acceptance from all sections of the party. 

If the ‘A’ faction agrees to handing over the post to the ‘I’ group, MLA VD Satheesan will be one of the top contenders. Satheesan is known for his solid standing, one who dares to criticise the party leadership.

If the group equations are forgotten, former minister of state for Home Affairs Mullappally Ramachandran is another person in the reckoning for KPCC President. Group equations were ignored when Sudheeran, who was not part of any of the factions, was assigned the job in 2014.

Mullappally’s chances to secure the post are high if Congress President Rahul Gandhi manages to rein in the two factions. Seniority and respectability among party leaders work in favour of Mullappally.

The Chengannur impact

Ramesh Chennithala has owned up for the bye-poll defeat in Chengannur. As Leader of Opposition he led the campaign for Congress candidate D Vijayakumar in the election. The party even tried to ‘stay united’ with rival leaders Chandy and Chennithala coming together in the campaign, but in vain.

“Not that the party lost, but the thumping majority the opposing CPI (M) candidate Saji Cherian secured with 20,956 votes, was indeed a shock. This exposes the party’s organizational lapses, while the CPI(M) has shown its strength. By fielding D Vijyakumar who is largely identified with Hindu organizations like the Ayyappa Seva Sangham, the minorities, which are prominent in the constituency, couldn’t differentiate between the Congress and the BJP candidates. Vijayakumar in his appearance is more a Hindu face, not an appeasing factor for the Christians,” a source said.

However, the source disagreed that the decision to appoint Chandy as AICC General Secretary was an attempt to corner him. He pointed out that it was a post Chennithala held years ago and one that KC Venugopal currently holds.  

“In Congress there is nothing like permanent elevation or fall.  Leaders like Chennithala, AK Antony, Vayalar Ravi et el had held the post in the past. Antony’s opponent and party stalwart K Karunakaran had worked to ‘send’ Antony to the post. But later Antony returned to the state and became the Chief Minister,” argued the source.

Meanwhile, MLA K Muraleedharan, son of Karunakaran is attempting to be a corrective force in the party, attacking Chennithala for the party’s defeat.  The defeated candidate, D Vijayakumar, however, blamed party leaders for not defending him when his opponents raised his Hindutva image.​


ReadChengannur bye-polls: Why this triangular contest is a litmus test for 2019 elections

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