THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The euphoria generated by the spectacular victory the Congress scored in the Puthuppally assembly constituency by-election has all but evaporated.
Factionalism, which has been the bane of the party in Kerala has resurfaced with redoubled vigour to the chagrin of the party’s rank and file which had been energized by the by-poll win.
An ugly manifestation of the strife within the party came when Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran and Leader of the Opposition (LoP) V D Satheesan addressed a joint press conference to celebrate the Congress victory. Both started arguing over who would begin the press conference. Sudhakaran insisted on speaking first saying that he is the KPCC president. A visibly upset Satheesan then reluctantly moved the cluster of mikes towards Sudhakaran. He refused to accept a shawl offered by a party worker. Satheesan also referred all questions to Sudhakaran. Sudhakaran faced an embarrassing moment when a correspondent asked him a question in English. When he turned to Satheesan for help, the latter refused to oblige. Satheesan’s attempts to make light of the ugly spectacle failed to undo the damage.
To add insult to injury, Satheesan also left his seat in a hurry. Satheesan claimed that he wanted to stop Sudhakaran from giving him full credit for the Puthuppally victory. But Sudhakaran refused, and he left the mike to the KPCC chief. Needless to say, the incident left a trail of bitterness, taking the shine off the by-election victory and highlighting the tension between the two top leaders.
In another incident baring the infighting, former leader of the opposition (LoP), Ramesh Chennithala has made no secret of his chagrin over being replaced as the LoP by V D Satheesan. Although Chennithala later tried to make amends by saying that he was a disciplined party worker and would abided by the decision of the Congress High Command, it was clear that he was far from being mollified.
In the meantime, Ramesh received a shot in the arm from a revelation made by former chief minister Oommen Chandy’s autobiography. Chandy has claimed that the high Command had chosen Satheesan as LoP although a majority of the elected party MLAs preferred Chennithala! Chandy was also upset over the high command’s failure to consult him before appointing Sudhakaran as the new KPCC president. Chandy admits the existence of groups in the Congress and that he was part of it.
The Congress leaders also ended up with egg on their faces when Oommen Chandy acknowledged the help from the then CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. This has come at a time when the Congress and the United Democratic Front (UDF) it heads have launched a campaign against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan accusing of being the sole conspirator in the solar sex scandal CBI enquiry against Oommen Chandy.
Chandy says that during that period, certain pamphlets targeting his daughter were circulated. The Chandy baiters even held a press conference on the issue. However, their efforts failed to attract attention. Later, those behind the nefarious plan sought an audience with Pinarayi. However, their efforts ended in disappointment.
The autobiography says “I held the position of leader of the opposition at that time. It was during this period that Pinarayi Vijayan dispatched P, Jayarajan, the parliamentary party secretary, to meet me. Our meeting took place within the Assembly, and Jayarajan conveyed Pinarayi’s message, which affirmed that the CPI(M) would not entertain such slanderous allegations.”
The latest embarrassment to the Congress has come from the wife of veteran Congress leader A K Antony. A video clipping which shows Elizabeth Antony saying that she no more harbours any ill will towards the BJP, has gone viral. The video, released by a Christian Retreat Centre under the Catholic diocese of Alappuzha, also shows Elizabeth ascribing the sudden rise of her son, Anil, who has joined the BJP, to divine intervention! She also attributes to St. Mary the inclusion of A K Antony in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and his recovery from various ailments!
That the video has caused acute embarrassment to A K Antony is obvious. But neither Antony nor any other Congress leader has so far reacted to Elizabeth’s statement. However, a leader close to Antony says that no significance should be attached to Elizabeth’s statement. Antony is the foremost leader of the Congress. And he is in no way responsible for her claims, he added.
Antony’s son had joined the BJP in April this year after leaving Congress following a spat with the party leadership over a document by the BBC, which was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was later named as national spokesman of the BJP, too.
All these incidents have put the Congress in a tight spot. At a time when the party should be focusing fully on winning the Lok Sabha elections, the party is witnessing revival of infighting. It goes without saying that the tussle will weaken its efforts to retain the 19 seats the UDF won in the 2019 parliamentary polls from Kerala, where the party is still a force to reckon with. “Vinasha kale vipareedha buddhi”. That was the comment from a Congress baiter. (IPA Service)