By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: There is no denying it. The spectacular Congress victory in Karnataka Assembly elections has come as a much-needed morale booster for the party unit in Kerala. But the question is: Can the Kerala unit do a Karnataka in the State?
The answer is: it is not at all easy, given the hurdles that teem the path to attainment of that objective. The Karnataka victory was made possible primarily because the Congress had the strongest organizational machinery in that state.
But the ground reality in Kerala is entirely different. The Congress organizational set-up is simply not up to the mark. And unless it is strengthened on a war footing, the party cannot hope to wrest power from the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front(LDF) in the next assembly elections or repeat its splendid performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when it won 19 out of the 20 seats from the State.
It is true that the new Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran is trying his level best to revamp the organization. But he has not been able to do that mainly because of the factional pressures he is being subjected. An angry Sudhakaran has threatened to quit if the appointment of mandalam and block presidents are delayed beyond a month. The KPCC chief is on record that he is unable to rise up to the expectations because a few leaders have not cooperated with the organisational revamp. How bad the situation is can be gauged from the fact that the KPCC chief is in the dark about the appointment of feeder organization office-bearers!
A close look at the factional pulls will illustrate the problems plaguing the organizational rejig. Even as Sudhakaran is complaining about non-cooperation, a few MPs have criticized the KPCC chief himself for the delay in appointments. For instance, Kozhikode MP MK Raghavan has complained that the list of leaders given by MPs to be appointed as mandalam and block presidents should be cleared without any further delay. Likewise, the failure to invite members of the executive committee of the Congress in the State, the highest body as per the party’s constitution, to the two-day KPCC meeting in Wayanad, has also evoked strong criticism. Senior Congress leaders preferring anonymity have said that it is this committee that approves the party’s policy decisions.
The only good thing that has happened at the two-day meeting held at Mananthawady in Wayanad district is the declaration that the BJP is the main enemy of the Congress in Kerala in line with the party’s national policy. But despite the announcement a sizable section of the party considers the CPI(M) too as the major enemy of the Congress in the State!. This conceptual ambivalence has created a lot of confusion in the party’s rank and file.
A significant feature of the meeting was that senior party leader Rahul Gandhi attended it online. It also managed, as per the claim of leaders, to end the differences and tussles among senior leaders. There was also a grand announcement that the ‘Mission 24’ readied in view of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will be completed in a time-bound manner.
But what is the reality at the ground level? Senior leaders continue to work at cross purposes. Former leader of the opposition Ramesh Chennithala and the present leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan, for instance, are engaged in an unseemly race of one-upmanship. Their open tussle has not gone down well with the party’s rank and file. This proves the hollowness of the claim that the party is totally united.
As if all this is not enough, the Youth Congress leadership in the State is unhappy about the method of selection employed by the national leadership to hold organizational polls. What has angered the state YC leaders is the decision to hold an interview to select the person for the top post! As per this proposal, the person who polls the maximum number of votes may not become the successor to Shafi Parambil as YC state president. The three candidates who poll the maximum number of votes will have to face an interview board which will have the final say in the appointment! The State leadership has opposed this method on the ground that similar methods used in choosing YC presidents in Tamil Nadu and Manipur have boomeranged.
In Karnataka, the congress also launched, quite effectively, a campaign against corruption which resonated well with the voters in that State. But the campaign is not having much of an effect in Kerala. The reason is simple: the Opposition has not been able to come up with any credible evidence of corruption. The Congress campaign alleging corruption in the installation of AI cameras for road safety has proved to be a flop. Not only that. The campaign against SRIT, the company implementing the project, has decided to sue Congress leaders Chennithala and Satheesan for tarnishing the image of the company by indulging in false propaganda.
Last but not the least, the Congress’s efforts to regain the trust of the Christian community has not succeeded either. In the wake of the Karnataka success story, the Congress in Kerala is making a determined bid to woo back the Kerala Congress(M), which left it to join the LDF. While the influence of communal equations helped the Congress in Karnataka, it is posing problems for the party in Kerala. While the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League(IUML) are partners in the UDF, a section of the IUML is cosying up to the CPIK(M)-led LDF.
This being the harsh reality, it would be a Herculean task for the Congress to do a Karnataka in Kerala. While the Congress in Karnataka had able leaders like Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar to lead the party, the Kerala unit lacks a dynamic leader who can turn the tables on the powerful LDF. The Congress, therefore, has miles to go before it can hope to repeat the Karnataka success story in Kerala. (IPA Service)