By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The more things change, the more they remain the same in Congress in Kerala.
As a wag has put, it is old wine in new bottle. He was referring to the reorganization of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). What has happened, in the process, is that the new power axis formed by the triumvirate, AICC general secretary in charge of the organization, K C Venugopal, KPCC president, K. Sudhakaran and Leader of the opposition, V D Satheesan has firmed up its grip on the Kerala unit of the party.
A significant upshot of the exercise is that the old-style jumbo committees have been given a decent burial. The new KPCC has been reconstituted with a 56-member committee. The earlier planned 51-member committee has had to be slightly expanded to suit the permutations of caste and region. The new State Committee boasts 28 members, including four vice-presidents, a treasurer and 23 general secretaries. The remaining 23 members have been included in the state executive committee.
The new list of office-bearers clearly shows that Venugopal has had a decisive say in the exercise. As many as 12 supporters of his have made it to the list, to the discomfiture of group managers Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala, who head the A and the I groups respectively. Care has been taken to accommodate the loyalists of Oommen Chandy as well. The worst sufferer has been former leader of the opposition, Ramesh Chennithala. Many of his aides have not found a berth in the new set-up. A clearly annoyed Chennithala, reports say, has conveyed his displeasure to the central leadership over the raw deal meted out to him. What must irritate him in particular is the fact that many leaders who earlier stood by him, have now shifted their loyalty to Venugopal.
It is not as if Sudhakaran has had its way all the way. For instance, he wanted to include former Palakkad DCC chief and Congress strongman in the district A V Gopinath in the list. But the move had to be dropped in the face of resistance from other leaders. Gopinath had rendered himself persona non grata by challenging the appointment of the new Palakkad DCC president and by threatening to leave the party.
Likewise, there is disaffection in the party unit in Kozhikode district, too. The two new general secretaries from the district do not belong to either the A or the I group. Both are close to the new state leadership headed by Sudhakaran. The A group is particularly aggrieved as it has been deprived of the DCC chief’s post which it has been holding since 2006. The new Kozhikode DCC president is a loyalist of senior Congress leader from the district and late Karunakaran’s son, K. Muralidharan. The I group in the district is also unhappy as none of the leaders belonging to the group have made it to the list. The notable omission has been I group strongman in the district and a Chennithala loyalist, N. Subramanian.
The Congress High Command is unlikely to be fully satisfied with the revamp exercise either. The reason: despite AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s personal instructions, representation of women is negligible in the new state committee. Only three – Deepthi Mary Verghese, Alippatta Jameela and K A Thulasi – are among the 23 general secretaries. There are no women among vice-presidents or working presidents. The Scheduled Tribe leaders in the list are vice-president VP Rajendran, Thulasi and Executive Committee member, P R Sona. Women have been meted out a shabby deal as there are only two women in the 28-member executive committee. They are Padmaja Venugopal and Sona. Taking note of the mounting criticism on this account, the KPCC president has said that more women will be accommodated as the new secretaries are appointed. Prominent among the executive members are former minister V S Shivakumar, Varkala Kahar, Jyotikumar Chamakkala and Jaison Joseph. All former state presidents and all CWC members from the state are permanent invitees to the executive. MPs, MLAs, members of political affairs committee, AICC secretaries from Kerala and outgoing DCC chiefs will be special invitees.
A notable feature of the KPCC revamp is that the groups continue to be a part and parcel of the Congress in the State! The only thing that has happened is that old groups have been replaced by new ones led by new leaders! Group bosses Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala called the shots in the party for close to two decades. They had replaced K. Karunakaran and AK Antony who led their own groups.
Now , it is the turn of Venugopal-Sudhakaran-Satheesan trio to dominate the show. This defeats the very purpose of the High Command’s decision to end groupism in the party. Unless this aspect is taken into consideration, Congress may witness, in future, recrudescence of factional rivalry. The Congress may witness renewed rivalry as and when organizational elections are held. Both Oommen Chandy and Chennithala hope to regain lost ground in these polls. (IPA Service)