By P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Will Shashi Tharoor make it to the Congress Working Committee (CWC)? That is the question uppermost in the minds of Congress leaders and workers in Kerala even as the 85th plenary session of the Congress begins in Raipur on February 24.
While Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has not revealed his mind on the subject, speculation is rife that Tharoor may be included as a special invitee. The Congress in Kerala is sharply divided on accommodating the three-time Thiruvananthapuram MP in the CWC. While the A group led by former chief minister Oommen Chandy favours Tharoor’s inclusion, there is another section which is vehemently opposed to it. Oommen Chandy himself is of the view that Tharoor’s popularity should be utilized by the Congress.
Incidentally, three A group leaders, M K Raghavan, Thambanur Ravi and Benny Behanan reportedly met Kharge recently and put in a strong word for Tharoor, it is learnt. Ignoring Tharoor in the changed political context will not be in the interests of the party. His immense popularity, especially among the youth and women, will stand the party in good stead in the forthcoming parliamentary poll. That is the considered view of a large section of Congress leaders as well as cadre. Moreover, the High Command simply cannot ignore the impressive performance Tharoor put up in the election for Congress president.
His supporters say, including Tharoor will not be a problem at all as two senior leaders from Kerala, A K Antony and Oommen Chandy will, in all probability, step down from the CWC on health grounds, paving the way for the entry of younger leaders and new faces from Kerala. That, in a way, would signal a generational shift in the party in Kerala. Among the frontrunners for AICC positions from Kerala are Ramesh Chennithala, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) working president Kodikkunnil Suresh, former KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran and Shashi Tharoor. There is also a distinct possibility of some Tharoor baiters, who have accused him of elitism and one-upmanship, making it to the CWC. Kerala occupies a special place in the Congress scheme of things because of two factors: the overwhelming response to his Bharat Jodo Yatra in the State and Rahul Gandhi’s being an MP from Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency.
As for Kodikkunnil Suresh, he is more or less sure to make it because he is in the good books of Sonia Gandhi. He has the support of Mallikarjun Kharge, too. But there is opposition to his candidature in Kerala itself. A former A group loyalist, Suresh is out of the group now. In other words, he is unlikely to get the backing of the still powerful A group. As far as Chennithala is considered, his chances are equally bright. Chennithala is close to both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul. His vast organizational experience and fluency in Hindi language are additional assets. Chennithala is a bit peeved at being removed as Leader of the opposition. There is a thinking that it is better to keep him out of the State in view of this fact. The High Command is sure to move cautiously as Kerala remains one of the few States where the Congress continues to be a force to reckon with and where it can stage an electoral comeback.
There are reports that four senior party leaders won’t be attending the plenary session. They are AK Antony, Oommen Chandy, former KPCC president VM Sudheeran and Mullappally Ramachandran. While Antony and Chandy will stay away on account of health problems, both Sudheeran and Mullappally are said to be unhappy because their concerns have not been addressed. It is a known secret that Sudheeran does not see eye to eye with present KPCC chief K Sudhakaran. Sudheeran has made no secret of his displeasure over Sudhakaran’s style of functioning. His grouse is that despite repeated reminders, the party high command has ignored his requests to solve the problems plaguing the state unit of the Congress. Incidentally, though Sudheeran has stepped down from the AICC and the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), his resignation has not been accepted so far.
In another surprise development, Mullappally Ramachandran is said to have decided to drop his plan to attend the plenary session. This has come amid reports that Mullappally is likely to be get a CWC berth and may also become the chairman of the disciplinary action committee of the AICC, replacing A K Antony. Mullappally, a senior Congress leader with his impeccable credentials, has been keeping a low profile ever since he stepped down as KPCC president following the defeat Congress suffered in the 2021 assembly election. (IPA Service)