'Mr. Clean' takes over in Kerala Cong

Special to Times of Oman

The appointment of V.M. Sudheeran as president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) has come as a whiff of fresh air for the party which has long been in the maelstrom of factionalism. 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are of the view that Sudheeran's leadership would help gutter out the whirligig of group politics in Kerala.

Most important, they hope to leverage Sudheeran's squeaky clean image and bold approach to men and matters to maximise the party's tally in the parliamentary poll at a time when the image of the party is at its nadir nationally.

It was no secret that the party workers of 'A' and 'I' groups headed by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala respectively had been at each other's jugular on pretty much all issues. Congresspersons who gave a wide berth to group politics were shorn of all positions in the party and government.

Sudheeran himself was once active in the 'A' group. For the last ten years or so he had been in political wilderness though he made it a point to voice his opinions on almost every issue. It was entirely another matter that his had been the Biblical 'voice in the wilderness' and the government had been tone-deaf to his views.

But the people up and down the state have prized his opinion on every subject. The high command was said to have found this out through an internal survey.

It may be noted that the consensus name suggested by the party-government combine was that of the speaker, G. Karthikeyan, but was rejected by the high command. This is not to say that Karthikeyan is less capable.

It's only that the high command thought that a leader widely accepted in society cutting across party lines would be the right choice in an election year. Besides, Sudheeran has an air of authority and commands respect from the party ranks and leaders. His courage and honesty is legendary.  Sure, the rejection of the consensus candidate put forward by the two groups must have discombobulated both Chennithala and Chandy and the latter showed his displeasure by not attending Sudheeran's inaugural ceremony. Chandy's gripe is not so much the rejection of his suggestion as the way the high command did it unbeknown to him. Observers too feel that he should have been informed of the choice before it went to the presspeople.

Now, both the CM and the home minister have no resort but to fall in line and work for victory at the hustings, for a poll debacle would reflect badly on all leaders, irrespective of the groups.

When Sonia came to Kerala after Sudheeran's appointment she told her partymen to bin group affiliations and work as one group, which is the Congress party. Everybody seemed to accept the new scenario though a lone dissenting voice emanated from Kannur's strongman, K. Sudhakaran. But soon he realised that both Sonia and Sudheeran meant business and asked pardon for his open dissent.

They say, well-begun is half-done, and Sudheeran's early days as state Congress chief have been quite impressive. Party forums have become active with debates and discussions. Financial transactions of various committees will be audited regularly. He has formed a policy chart for the ministers to follow.

A five-member advisory committee has been set up for each minister.  Ministers have to inform the local units of the party before their trips. Ministers and party functionaries must avoid shady characters, howsoever influential they may be.

He has ordered panchayats, where Congress is at the helm, not to start new bars. Partymen have to junk luxurious living. Each of the 20 parliamentary constituencies will be helmed by a KPCC general secretary.  

In sum, a series of appointments at all levels of the party have already been made and the preparatory work for the poll is being done at a fast clip.

If things go at this way and pace, who knows Congress may turn up trumps at the poll despite the solar scam that has, of late, dented its image.

One thing is certain: Sudheeran's entry into active politics will change the way the party has been functioning.

The author is a freelance contributor based in India.  All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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