By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The result of by-elections to the five Assembly constituencies held in Kerala recently has grave implications for the Congress in particular and the party-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in general.
True, the Congress and the UDF won three out of the five constituencies which went to the polls. But the humiliating defeat the party suffered in its strongholds like Vattiyurkavu and Konni must prove a much-needed wake up call for the party and the Front it leads.
Ironically, at a time when the Congress needs to sink its differences and indulge in introspection, the party is engaged in an internecine war of words. The open display of factionalism despite the call from Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Mullappally Ramachandran to desist from making public statements can only further weaken an already-enfeebled party and the UDF.
That the Congress lost two of its sure seats thanks to infighting, must set the party leaders thinking and impel them to apply the correctives. Failure to do so will only result in bigger electoral defeats for the party in future.
The fact of the matter, however unpalatable it is, is that the Congress has not learnt lessons from the by-election results. Congress, which otherwise has a reasonably good chance of putting up a good show will have to pay a heavy penalty if it fails to end infighting. The party’s dream of storming back to power in the State will remain a pipedream if it fails to put its house in order without further loss of time.
A closer look at the by-election results will show the extent of the rot in the Congress and its failure to realise the implications for the future. Even in the seat the Congress should have won hands down, the party literally hummed and hawed and just managed to romp home.
The reference is to the victory in Ernakulam, a traditional stronghold of the Congress. That the victory margin was a mere 3700 votes is a sad commentary of the state of affairs in the Congress. Of course, the party is blaming it on the heavy rains on the polling day which kept a large number of its voters away from the polling booths. That is cold comfort. The narrow escape is a pointer to the damage infighting has inflicted on the party.
True, the Congress and the UDF make much of the comfortable victory the UDF candidate scored in Manjeswaram. But the Congress must know that the Manjeswaram victory was due mainly to the discipline and the unity displayed by the ally of the Congress, Indian Union Muslim League. In fact, the Congress has much to learn from the manner in which the IUML went about the job of winning the seat despite a determined challenge from the BJP, which is a formidable force in Manjeswaram.
In fact, worried IUML leaders made no secret of their displeasure over the infighting in Congress which cost the party and the UDF dear in Vattiyurkavu and Konni. They were right in doing so. And the Congress would do well to heed the well[-meaning warning in the right spirit and initiate urgent damage-control measures. Self goals of the kind the Congress scored in Vattiyurkavu and Konni are a luxury the party and the UDF cannot afford in a State where the Congress has reasonably good chance of wresting power from the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front(LDF).
Is the Congress High Command listening? Or is it lulling itself into a false sense of complacency in the belief that the problems plaguing the party in Kerala shall pass in the days ahead? That way lies disaster. (IPA Service)