Halt nominations, hold polls: Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala to Sonia Gandhi

The tug of war within Congress in Kerala intensified as senior leader Oommen Chandy demanded an end to the process of constituting the state Congress through nominations and completing it through organisational elections during his meeting with interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Wednesday.

As Ramesh Chennithala, another senior leader, has already made similar demands through his letters to Gandhi and state in-charge Tariq Anwar, Congress circles feel groups led by Chandy and Chennithala have closed ranks to take on the new leadership team nominated with the blessings of Rahul Gandhi and AICC organisation general secretary KC Venugopal.

After Chandy took up the issues with Gandhi and Tariq Anwar separately, Anwar left for Kerala by Wednesday evening to hold peace talks with senior state Congress leaders to defuse the situation. Before leaving for Thiruvanathpauram, Anwar said he would hold discussions with senior Congress leaders of Kerala and try to find an amicable solution.

During his meeting with Gandhi, Chandy is also learnt to have sought regular meetings of the political affairs committee of the state Congress. He complained that the new state leadership team, comprising PCC chief K Sudhakaran and CLP leader VD Satheesan, did not hold regular PAC meetings. Chandy reminded the central leadership that AICC had created the PAC with the aim of making broad-basing policy decisions. Recently, former PCC chief VM Sudheeran resigned from PAC and his AICC membership, alleging the new leadership was functioning as a new group by limiting decision-making to a handful of leaders and excluding seniors. Chandy and Chennitala too have similar complaints.

Chandy’s and Chennithala’s suggestion that the AICC need not nominate members and that members to the District Congress Committees and Block Congress Committees in Kerala can be elected is seen as their groups’ move to turn the organisational polls into a show of strength against the new PCC team.

For Team Sudhakaran, AICC nominating DCCs and BCCs with its nominees is crucial to establish a hold on the state Congress machinery, hitherto dominated by Chandy-Ramesh groups. However, the Chandy-Ramesh groups have cited PCC chief K Sudhakaran’s comment that he will seek to retain his post in the scheduled organisational elections to argue that a PCC chief who will be a candidate cannot be allowed to nominate committee members as it would amount to conflict of interests. The Congress in Kerala has a history of powerful groups forcing elections to party posts, which once saw Karunakaran-backed Vayalar Ravi defeating AK Antony in the election for KPCC president. Chandy and Chennithala may be working to force yet another such contest if AICC lets the current leadership team in Kerala to have its way.

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