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Cleansing Time For Congress In Kerala

By P. Sreekumaran

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Will the Congress High Command summon the nerve to undertake a thorough cleansing of its Kerala unit in the wake of the serious crisis which has overtaken the party?

Congress has been plunged into an unprecedented crisis with the decision of the LDF government to initiate criminal and vigilance inquiries against former chief minister Oommen Chandy, several of his senior cabinet colleagues, and a number of Congress MPs and MLAs for their role in the infamous solar scam.

The decision has come in the wake of the findings of the Justice Sivarajan Commission, which probed the multi-crore scam, part findings of which were released by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan the other day.

Criminal and vigilance cases are to be filed against Chandy and his cabinet colleagues Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Aryadan Mohammed, AP Anil Kumar and Adoor Prakash. Police officers, who originally probed the scam, including DGP A Hemachandran and ADGP K Padmakumar, have been shunted out of police for serious lapses in probe.

Based on a letter from Saritha Nair, the main accused in the scam, the Commission wanted the sexual angle to be reinvestigated. Accordingly, cases of sexual harassment, outraging the modesty of a woman and rape will be registered against former ministers Aryadan Mohammed, AP Anil Kumar, Adoor Prakash, former union minister of state in the UPA government S S Palanimanickyam, MPs KC Venugopal, Jose K Mani and Haibi Eden, MLA, AP Abdullakutty, former MLA and KPCC secretary N Subramanian.

Shell-shocked Congress leaders from Kerala have been summoned by an equally worried Congress High Command to discuss the grave situation arising out of the ‘carpet bombing’ by the Chief Minister.

The decision has come at a time when the Congress in Kerala is going through an agonising organizational revamp, accompanied, as usual, by a tussle for sharing organizational posts between the two major groups, led by Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.

Every challenge provides an opportunity as well. The Congress High Command now has a golden opportunity to cleanse the Congress in Kerala, the credibility of which has been torn to shreds following the lurid revelations of sexual exploitation, corruption and misuse of official positions for private gains by its leaders.

The High Command must realize that tinkering simply won’t do. The need of the hour is a major surgery, which would entail removal of all tainted leaders and injection of fresh blood. That alone can help the Congress in Kerala, one of the few states in which the party is still a force to reckon with, to reinvent itself.

The time to strike is now as the tainted leaders are completely on the defensive following the revolting revelations.

Such a ‘surgical strike’ is of utmost importance for another reason: The Congress is engaged, at the national level, in a major campaign against the BJP in the wake of the revelations against BJP president Amit Shah’s son involving corruption and malfeasance. If the Congress campaign has to acquire credibility and traction, the party must, first, put its own house in order. That makes the need for drastic steps urgent and unavoidable.

The High Command must also know that failure to undertake urgent corrective measures will cause the withering away of the party, already in serious decline in Kerala. The beneficiary will, of course, be the BJP, which has been trying – unsuccessfully so far – to emerge as the third force in the state. Understandably, the BJP is jubilant over the acute discomfiture faced by the Congress. Needless to say, BJP will occupy the opposition space vacated by weakening of the Congress in Kerala – a development which can pose a grave threat to the State’s pluralistic and secular credentials.

The sordid episode, once again, underlines the paramount need for political parties to undertake serious introspection on the way politics is practised. Parties must learn appropriate lessons from the plight being faced by the Congress and return to value-based politics. It is a fond hope, given the track record of various parties. But, then, hope sustains life. (IPA Service)

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