Unnerved by the recent Assembly election debacle, the various factions in the Congress party in Kerala are trying to find a scapegoat in the State party chief V.M. Sudheeran.
Both the major factions—called the `A Group,’ represented by former Chief Minister; and, the `I Group,’ represented by the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala—want Sudheeran removed as the State chief, though `A’ is more vociferous. Second-rung leaders in the party such as Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and G. Sudhakaran have already told the party’s national leaders that if the party were to survive in Kerala, Sudheeran should go.
In view of an escalation of the infighting, the party high-command has summoned Sudheeran, Chandy and Chennithala to Delhi on Saturday. Earlier this week, Sudheeran had been called to Delhi to discuss the post-election scenario. Sudheeran later told the media that the party structure in Kerala would be overhauled soon and that he had the mandate from Rahul Gandhi.
At the stormy two-day meeting of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) executive held over the weekend, Sudheeran faced sharp criticism for leading the party into the Assembly election debacle. Several leaders had raised a stink over Sudheeran’s inflexible stance on a host of issues, his open criticisms of the Oommen Chandy Government and his confrontation with Chandy over Congress candidate selection which they claimed had led to the defeat of the United Democratic Front in the election. Many had called for a `change in leadership.’
Though both the A and I are unhappy with Sudheeran because of his strong moralistic positions on issues such as the liquor policy and corruption, `A’ is keener to see Sudheeran out. The party high-command had, in early 2014, brought in Sudheeran, as the party chief as he had no group of his own and had a high moral profile among the people. Chandy had openly resented the elevation of Sudheeran as the KPCC president. Soon, the two started shadow boxing. And, when the issue of annual licences to some 400 liquor bars came up, the two started sparring openly.
Sudheeran kept the heat on the Chandy Government by exposing corruption in the government. In the fag end of the Chandy Government, Sudheeran openly alleged corruption and under-hand dealings in a series of decisions made by the State Cabinet as well as by individual ministers. He got many of these decisions—taken by the government led by his own party—reversed with the help of the media and the Opposition.
Political pundits, as well as Congress leaders, have highlighted these tainted decisions of Chandy government as the major reason for the UDF debacle in the election. The A Group believes that but for Sudheeran, the Chandy government would have got a second term in government. No wonder, it is eager to get him out.