Chennithala or Satheesan? Congress in Kerala yet to pick opposition leader

While leaders like Oommen Chandy have backed Ramesh Chennithala, a section of the party wants VS Satheesan to take up the role.
Collage of Congress leaders in Kerala VD Satheesan and Ramesh Chennithala
Collage of Congress leaders in Kerala VD Satheesan and Ramesh Chennithala
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Three weeks after the Assembly election results were announced in Kerala, the Congress is yet to decide who will occupy the post of Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly. In the ongoing discussions within the party, a section of leaders have backed Ramesh Chennithala to continue in the post while some others have voiced support for younger leader VD Satheesan to take over. Meanwhile, an unexpected move from former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy, who has decided to back Chennithala, has reportedly put the party’s high command on the spot.

There are two predominant factions in the Kerala unit of the Congress — the I group led by Ramesh Chennithala and the A group, headed by Oommen Chandy. The unofficial understanding in the party is to share positions and seats between both factions. Ramesh Chennithala was chosen as the Leader of Opposition in 2016 after the party's then poll debacle. Oommen Chandy, who was Chief Minister from 2011 to 2016, opted out of the post.

In the 2021 Assembly election, the Congress, which had contested without naming a Chief Ministerial face, faced another defeat. Chennithala (64), had put up an impressive performance as Leader of Opposition, bringing to the fore, lapses of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. However, he failed to emerge to the status of a mass leader. Oommen Chandy on the other hand, still remains the crowd puller of the party. The 77-year old, however, has health issues that are perhaps pulling him back from opting for any top posts.

On the other hand, 56-year old VD Satheesan had won much acclaim for his performance as a legislator during the tenure of the first Pinarayi Vijayan government. "A section of MLAs want VD Satheesan as Leader of Opposition while Oommen Chandy has backed Chennithala. K Sudhakaran backed VD Satheesan," a Congress source told TNM. K Sudhakaran is a senior leader who is currently a Member of Parliament from Kannur.

Ommen Chandy won his Puthupallly constituency in Kottayam district in the election while Chennithla won from Haripad. Satheesan is an MLA representing Paravur constituency in Ernakulam, The Congress heads the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in the state. The CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front retained power by winning 99 out of the total 140 seats. The second Pinarayi Vijayan government with 20 ministers was sworn in on May 20. 

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