By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As if the plethora of problems plaguing the Congress in Kerala is not enough, the party has been hit by ‘son stroke’!
The man in focus is, Anil Antony, son of veteran Congress leader A K Antony. Anil had to quit as chairman of the digital communication cell of the State unit for voicing a view, which is at odds with that of the party on the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a recent tweet on the issue, Anil had said that the British broadcaster over Indian institutions would undermine the country’s sovereignty.
The tweet had evoked strong criticism not only from the State unit of the Congress but also from the party High Command. The strong reaction forced Anil to quit the post, alleging “intolerant calls to retract a tweet.” In the process, Anil also had a dig at Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. In his remark Anil said “I have resigned from my roles in the Congress. Intolerant calls to retract tweet, by those fighting for free speech. I [email protected] wall of hate/abuses by ones supporting a trek to promote love! Hypocrisy thy name is! Life goes on,” Anil tweeted. He further said in a letter that “by now I have been made well aware that you, your colleagues, and the coterie around the leadership are only keen to work with a bunch of sycophants and chamchas who would be unquestionably at your beck and call. This has become the lone criterion of merit,” he added.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was unsparing in his criticism. “A Tale of Two Sons of Two CMs from the same state. One is a Bharat Yatri and walking tirelessly, mostly barefoot, to unite our nation in the #BharatJodoYatra. The other is revelling in his day in the sun today having ignored his duties to the party and the Yatra.” The Bharat Yatri Ramesh mentioned was Chandy Oommen, Oommen Chandy’s son, who has walked with Rahul Gandhi from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. In a significant development, Youth Congress leaders have also reacted strongly to Anil’s outbursts. While YC state president Shafi Parambil welcomed Anil’s resignation, the reaction from YC vie-president Rijil Makutty was stronger. He demanded that Anil should resign from the Congress.
Intriguingly, AK Antony himself has, so far, remained tight-lipped. There has been no reaction from Anil’s father. But he cannot afford to remain silent for long. Sooner than later, he will have to take a stand. After all, Antony is the chairman of the disciplinary action committee. It will be an acid test for the veteran. Will he act against his son, who has shown no signs of stopping his criticism of the Congress? In his latest comment, Anil said that the Congress had found a perfect ally in BBC, which, according to him, often questioned India’s territorial integrity by publishing truncated maps of the country. Senior Antony will have to either ask his son to stop making anti-party statements or take disciplinary action against him. It, undoubtedly, is a catch 22 situation for AK Antony who is known to take principled stand on issues.
The BJP, understandably, is pretty pleased over the acute embarrassment caused to the Congress. BJP state president K Surendran lost no time in twisting the knife in the Congress wound. Anil’s resignation from Congress party posts showed that patriots had no place in the party, he said. True, Anil has denied any plan to join the BJP. But how true Congress politics will play out in the days to come will be watched with keen interest.
Unfortunately for the party, the Anil episode has emerged at a time when the Congress in the State is struggling to shake off the adverse impact of a slew of developments. To the dismay of the State leadership, factionalism has reared its ugly head in the Kottayam district unit of the party, one of the strongest units in the State. What has caused consternation is the omission of Congress general secretary and former chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, from party posters on a protest by Congress MP Anto Antony. The A group, which Chandy heads, is unhappy over the development. This is the second time in a month that Chandy is being excluded from party posters. The insult to Oommen Chandy has come in the wake of speculation that his son, Chandy Oommen may contest from Pathanamthitta in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. At present, Anto Antony represents Pathanamthitta in the Lok Sabha.
Besides, there is uncertainty over the continuation of K. Sudhakaran as Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). There is a section within the party, including senior leaders, which wants Sudhakaran to step down. Their reasoning: Sudhakaran has antagonised the Indian Union Muslim League (IUMLK), the second most powerful constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front(UDF) through his statements critical of IUML leaders. Adding fuel to the speculation is his ill-health. Sudhakaran’s supporters, however, are unfazed. They say Sudhakaran’s rivals in the party are seriously handicapped because there is no leader who can be projected as his replacement. They also believe that the party would not dare to remove Sudhakaran as he has the support of the powerful Ezhava community.
All these developments have pushed the Congress on the defensive. It will be a Herculean task for Sudhakaran to undo the damage. The million dollar question is: Will Congress High Command, which has so far extended him full support, change its stance? The answer lies in the womb of time. Till the issue is settled, the Congress in the State, will continue to be buffeted by ill-winds. (IPA Service)