By P. Sreekumaran
All the problems plaguing the party have been resolved. Everything is hunky dory. The Congress in Kerala will march ahead in total unity. This is what the State leadership of the party would have the people believe.
But, then, as the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in eating. True, Kerala Pradesh Congress committee president K. Sudhakaran and leader of the Opposition, V D Satheesan say that peace has been restored after their meeting with dominant group chieftains Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala. The duo had openly voiced their displeasure over the manner in which the appointment of District Congress Committee(DCC) presidents were made.
The big question is: will the ‘peace agreement’ prove lasting? Has the trail of bitterness left by the DCC chiefs’ appointment episode become a thing of the past? The answers to these questions lie in the womb of future. The first test will come when the State leadership tries to revamp the KPCC. Sudhakaran and Satheesan are on record that the concerns of Chandy and Chennithala will be addressed. That is easier said than done.
There are clear indications that the KPCC reorganization exercise will not be smooth. Bolth Chandy and Chennithala have made it clear that the groups in the party are here to stay. Nobody can wish them away. For record’s sake, Oommen Chandy has said that the party comes first, and the groups second! Which shows they are in no mood to stop playing group politics!
And, if the recent pronouncements of the duo are anything to go by, Sudhakaran and Satheesan will have a hard time ahead. Ramesh Chennithala had lashed out at the state leadership for trying to marginalize him and Oommen Chandy. Nobody can ignore Oommen Chandy. He is an AICC general secretary. Thus thundered Chennithala. His outbursts surprised even the members of the I group which he heads!
But it is also clear that the group chieftains’ hardened stance will not go unchallenged. While Chandy himself avoided making any comments on Chennithala’s angry outburst, senior leader Thiruvanchoor Radhakarishnan was candid in his criticism of Chennithala. “No one should take a stance using Oommen Chandy’s name as a cover.” Thiruvanchoor, a prominent member of the A group led by Chandy till recently, also said Ramesh will have to rue his uncalled for remark in future. Nobody can question the stature of Chandy in Indian politics. But at the same time, Thiruvanchoor said, he does not agree with the kind of statement made by Chennithala.
A clear sign that the A and I groups will make it difficult for the State leadership to go ahead with the KPCC reorganization the way it wants is the demand that organizational elections should be held at the earliest. The timing of the demand is significant. It has been revived at a time when the duo feel there is a concerted effort to sideline them from the process of decision-making. Both the leaders seem to think that if inner-party polls are held ahead of the KPCC revamp exercise, they could bounce back and reassert their relevance. They think both Sudhakaran and Satheesan simply do not have the kind of support they enjoy in the party organization.
But one thing Chandy and Chennithala forget is that there has been a sea change in the situation. There are two factors which favour the new state leadership. First is the firm support of the Congress High Command. The High Command’s line is clear. Under no circumstances should the state leadership succumb to the pressure of the group managers. This being the reality, the demand for inner-party polls ahead of the KPCC rejig is unlikely to be conceded. The AICC is credited with the view that a strong KPCC chief who is powerful enough to resist the politics of brinkmanship indulged in by the group chieftains is the need of the hour. In other words, the clever ploy of Chandy and Chennithala to regain the lost ground through inner-party polls will not work.
Both Chandy and Chennithala must also come to terms with the changing equations in the party. They no more enjoy the kind of clout they had in the past. A number of leaders who supported them have shifted their allegiance to the new leadership. For instance, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and T. Siddique, staunch Chandy loyalists till the other day, have endorsed the new state leadership. Chennithala has suffered the same fate. A few close aides of his are now enthusiastic supporters of the Sudhakaran-Satheesan team. The sooner the Chandy-Chennithala duo reconcile themselves to the new situation the better. Moreover, the rank and file of the party is also fed up with group politics. An overwhelming majority of the party workers and activists feel the party lost the state assembly elections solely because of group politics. In other words, group politics has become a counterfeit coin in Congress politics. Are Chandy and Chennithala listening? (IPA Service)