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It’s old guard vs ‘Team Rahul’ as Congress faces new dissent battle in Kerala

Kerala district unit presidents’ list has triggered a row, with senior leaders Oommen Chandy & Ramesh Chennithala accusing the leadership of not consulting them. 

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New Delhi: After Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Rajasthan, the Congress party is now battling dissent in its Kerala unit. Infighting has broken out in the Kerala Congress, with senior leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala alleging that they weren’t consulted in the appointment of the party’s new district presidents. 

In response, Kerala Congress president, K. Sudhakaran and leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly, V.D. Satheeshan, have slammed the two leaders, denying their claims and saying that both were kept in the loop.

Both Sudhakaran and Satheeshan are known to be Rahul Gandhi appointees and loyalists. 

The Congress party’s Kerala assembly elections in April were fought largely on Rahul Gandhi’s shoulders, and thus the drubbing was viewed as his failure. 

In June, the Kerala state unit leadership was revamped with Satheeshan replacing Chennithala as the leader of opposition, and days later, Sudhakaran being brought in as the Kerala PCC chief to replace Mullappally Ramachandran.

This was seen as the Congress high command’s signalling against “groupism” as neither of the two new appointees belonged to any faction. 

The issue has now brought both Chandy and Chennithala — who lead two different factions of the party unit, Congress (A) and Congress (I) — on the same side. Their revolt against Sudhakaran and Satheeshan is thus being seen as a bigger revolt against the central leadership of the Congress. 

Also read: After meeting with Rahul Gandhi, Bhupesh Baghel says no rotation of CM post in Chhattisgarh

Genesis of the row

The latest row in Kerala Congress, a state unit known for its history of factionalism, comes after the announcement of the party’s District Congress Committee (DCC) presidents for all 14 of the state’s districts last Saturday. 

A day later on Sunday, both Chandy and Chennithala were up in arms over the candidate list, and said that none of those they suggested have been considered.

This came as several other leaders and party workers too spoke publicly against the list, leading to the temporary suspension of two of them — K.P. Anil Kumar and K. Sivadasan Nair. 

The leaders allege that only the names nominated by Sudhakaran, Satheeshan, and the General Secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal were considered. Speaking to the media Sunday, Sudhakaran denied all such allegations.

When ThePrint reached Chandy and Chennithala for their response, both leaders said they stand by their words, and don’t want to add more.

‘Not one worthy candidate’ — Suspended Congress leader

On Sunday, speaking to local TV channels, Chandy had said the reorganisation could have taken place in a “better atmosphere” had the “KPCC leadership consulted everybody”.

“My name was dragged into a process in which I had no say,” he had said.

Chennithala also reiterated the same, saying that there was no discussion held with him on the matter. A week before the list was released, there had already been murmurs of a potential revolt among the party cadre if Chennithala’s nominees were not considered. 

Then Kumar and Nair were temporarily suspended, adding to the furore. 

Kumar, a former state general secretary, told ThePrint that he was “punished for merely being honest”.

“In every single district, there are leaders who are more worthy of being DCC chiefs than the ones who were selected,” Kumar said. “Gopinath had been the DCC of Palakkad for so long; he enjoys so much grassroot support. But he was just sidelined by the party.”

He was referring to A.V. Gopinath, senior Congress leader and former Palakkad DCC chief, who quit the party Monday, ending his five-decade long association, over the controversy surrounding the list.

“If Chandy, who was the CM for seven years, and Chennithala, who was the PCC chief for 10 years, have criticised the list, surely there has to be something wrong with it. Both Sudhakaran and Satheeshan will ruin the party with their diktats,” Kumar added. 

Asked about his temporary suspension, Kumar said, “I merely went to the TV channels and voiced my opinion. Congress leadership says we should voice these grievances in the party forum. But where is the party forum? There is none.” 

Also read: ‘You aren’t shutting down Rahul Gandhi, but my followers’: Congress leader lashes out at Twitter

‘Consultations took place’: Sudhakaran slams Chandy, Chennithala

The revolt in the party by the top leaders as well as workers has been slammed by Sudhakaran. 

Speaking to the media in Delhi Sunday, Sudhakaran denied all allegations that Chandy and Chennithala were not consulted. 

“Talks were held with Oommen Chandy and Chennithala twice,” he said.

He also said that the views of both the leaders were considered and their suggestions incorporated — showing a diary of his with the names of the supposed nominations made by Chandy and Chennithala. 

He further said that the trend of holding consultations and talks was not followed by Chandy and Chennithala themselves. 

“Earlier, the two groups had divided the districts among themselves. When did they hold talks with the rest of the party office-bearers to finalise the seats? Let them say that first,” Sudhakaran said, according to The New Indian Express

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: BJP’s ‘my way or highway’ attitude reason for Parliament washout, Congress’ Manish Tewari says


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