By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The resignation of senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran from the State unit’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) constitutes a major setback for the party in Kerala.
The seriousness of the crisis can be gauged from the failure of the AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar’s mediation attempt. Sudheeran has refused to withdraw his resignation, saying that he would be back in the committees only if the State leadership changed its style of functioning. Sudheeran has made certain suggestions to the central leadership. If two leaders – Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala – took decisions unilaterally earlier, now four leaders including Sudhakaran and Satheesan call the shots in the party. That was the crux of Sudheeran’s argument. He has singled out Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran for criticism. If Sudhakaran does not correct his style of functioning, the Congress in the State would be doomed, warned the veteran Congress leader. Sudheeran’s outburst also amounts to a calculated snub to AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, who heads the triumvirate of leaders in Congress politics in Kerala politics, the other two leaders being Sudhakaran and Satheesan. Reports have it that even senior leader A K Antony failed to pacify an angry Sudheeran.
Sudheeran’s resignation has come at a time when the Congress leadership in the State is making a determined attempt to revitsalise the party organization in the State. In his letter to Sudhakaran, Sudheeran has complained about lack of consultations in the party. What has angered Sudheeran in particular is the remark of Sudhakaran that he has resigned on health grounds! There are also reports that Sudheeran is unhappy about the Sudhakaran’s refusal to consider his nominee for Kollam district Congress president. Sudheeran gave leader of thee Opposition V D Satheesan a piece of his mind when the latter met him in an attempt to defuse the tension. Satheesan later admitted having made mistakes and apologized. But obviously that has not mollified Sudheeran. Sudheeran’s main grievance is that though the state leadership had sought his views on organisational reorganisation, he was not consulted in the decision-making process. It may be mentioned that Sudheeran had also quit the membership of the United Democratic Front (UDF) high-power committee in protest against giving the Rajya Sabha seat to Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K. Mani when he was with the UDF.
Sudheeran’s revolt has come at a time when the Congress in the State is still smarting from the blows administered by party leaders KP Anil Kumar, former Palakkad DCC chief AV Gopinath and Congress leader from Thiruvananthapuram P S Prashanth who have quit the party. What is particularly galling for the state Congress leaders is that Anil Kumar and Prashanth have since joined the CPI(M). Even former chief minister Oommen Chandy whose relations with Sudheeran are anything but cordial has said that a leader like him should be there in the PAC. Ramesh Chennithala, another Sudheeran baiter is also credited with the same view. Sudheeran is a highly respected leader in the State and is regarded as the ethical face of the party in the State.
With Sudheeran bringing to the notice of the Congress High Command the state of affairs in the state unit, the ball is now in the court of the latter. Much will depend on the manner in which the High Command handles the matter. It remains to be seen whether the central leadership, which has so far extended full support to the Sudakaran-Satheesan duo, will continue to do so in view of the un expected turn of events. The High Command will have to take corrective measures sooner than later.
What must worry the central leadership is the fact that there are more leaders who are angry with the style of functioning of Sudhakaran and Satheesan. Prominent among them is former KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran. Mullappally is extremely unhappy about Sudhakaran’s comment that he is not available on phone! Mullappally, a veteran leader who is held in high esteem, conveyed his displeasure to Tariq Anwar who met him. “I am a senior leader who has been with the Congress party for over five decades and I don’t think that I should be given a particular slot to see the party president.” Anwar also had a meeting with Ramesh Chennithala who opined that unity should be ensured in the party and that senior leaders should be taken into confidence before taking crucial decisions.
There is a distinct possibility that group managers like Oommen Chandy and Chennithala will be emboldened by the open revolt of Sudheeran to harden their stance vis-à-vis organisational revamp. Sudhakaran and Satheesan are likely to leave for Delhi for consultations with the central leadership on the probable list of leaders to be included in the KPCC.
One thing is for sure. The central leadership of the Congress cannot afford to remain a mute spectator to the goings on in the State unit. The state leadership will have to make amends by initiating immediate corrective steps. The High Command must not repeat the kind of mistakes it has made in a Congress-dominated state like Punjab. Kerala is one of the few states, apart from Punjab, where the Congress is still a force to reckon with and has a chance to wrest power. How to cut the Gordion knot? That is the question before the Congress leadership. (IPA Service)