THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The knives are out for Congress leader Oommen Chandy, accused of gifting a Rajya Sabha vacancy to the Kerala Congress (M), albeit for restoring the shaky UDF to its formal strength. The resentment against Mr Chandy cuts across groups, with one of the seniormost leaders, Prof. P.J. Kurien, the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, threatening to complain to the high command against the former’s “personal agenda.” Former PCC president V. M. Sudheeran, like Mr Kurien, met the press for the second day, accusing Mr Chandy of plotting behind the Congress party to gift-wrap the RS seat to coincide with KC (M)’s return to the UDF fold after nearly two years’ “waywardness.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had affixed his imprimatur to the seat deal with KC (M) chairman K.M. Mani, has had second thoughts and sought a report from the AICC general secretary, Mr Mukul Wasnik. Congress working committee member A.K. Antony, whose intercession has been sought by partymen to unhinge the crisis, has been maintaining a studied silence, or it appears though.
The youth brigade, led by Mr V.T. Balram, has demanded a leadership change in the Congress in Kerala, almost in a throwback to 1994 when the then finance minister, Mr Chandy, led a putsch against chief minister K. Karunakaran by resigning in protest against the denial of the RS seat to partyman Dr M.A. Kuttappan.
2018 is not 1994 and the dramatis personae are different as well as the circumstances. The UDF and the LDF were almost evenly poised and the BJP was not a factor to reckon with. But now the BJP is a force. Mr Sudheeran’s main grouse against Mr Chandy is that his appeasement of Mr Mani might strengthen the BJP. The ‘A’ camp, now led by Mr Chandy, is sullen. It is as if he had done the indefensible. The focus is now on the Congress high-level meetings early next week. But there is also an argument that Mr Chandy had sensed the wasting of the UDF (Chengannur shocker) and tried his best to reintegrate KC (M) into the UDF well before the LS polls lest Mani should harbour plans for a secret dalliance with the LDF.
Mr Chandy seeks to justify his act by arguing that he had done it in the best interest of the UDF. Having seen the virtual disintegration of the UDF electoral base, the strategy is to present it as a formidable bulwark against the Hindutva forces and restore minority confidence. Bishops and even Protestant factions had begun to see the LDF as a more convincing combination to checkmate the BJP. The CPM has been working overtime with its agenda to dismember the UDF.
It is in this context that Mr Chandy went more than half way to bring back Mr Mani. The decision to kick Mr Jose K. Mani upstairs, at least for now, by getting him nominated to the Rajya Sabha, is seen as a clever move to sanitize central Kerala of the mutual rancour between the junior Mani and local Congress netas and situate the UDF in a better format for the impending Lok Sabha elections....