KOCHI: The factional feud in the Congress party, which could upset the chances of the UDF to retain power in the City Corporation, came out in the open again on Friday after two prominent party leaders in the city locked horns over the Mayor post in Kochi, in case the front wins the elections.
In an interview given to a television channel here, it was GCDA chairman and senior leader N Venugopal who triggered the controversy. In the interview, Venugopal said that though the UDF had an upper hand initially in the polls which could have given it a thumping victory, it gradually lost momentum. According to him, the party leadership's poor candidate selection was one of the key reasons that led to the situation. He added that the leadership also did not give due consideration to Hindu community and that the Congress fielded more than 60 per cent Christian candidates.
On October 27, 'The New Indian Express' had published an article in which the party insiders complained that out of the 58 seats, the Congress had fielded 37 Christian candidates, while representation of Hindu candidates, including the Nair and Ezhava communities, was 18. The huge representation given to a particular community has resulted in bitterness among the party members, the report had added.
Meanwhile, Venugopal, in his interview, also said that the UDF will retain the power in Kochi Corporation, but only with a thin margin. He also hinted that the Mayor would be a Latin Catholic.
Meanwhile, adding fuel to the fire, former mayor Tony Chammany, in another interview, brushed aside the views of Venugopal and said that the party will decide the Mayor candidate after the results and it has nothing to do with community interests.
Criticising the remarks, DCC president V J Poulose said that the statement that there was resentment within the Congress as the number of Christian candidates has gone out of proportion is purely to protect Venugopal's own vested interests.
Meanwhile, Venugopal told City Express that he was not ready to make any further comments in this regard. “I will reveal my opinion in this regard after the announcement of the election results,” he said.
Tony Chammany too was unavailable for comment. Following the television interview, KPCC president V M Sudheeran had told the Congress leaders in the city to stop making public statements. The warning given by Sudheeran temporarily stopped the war of words. But the factional feud is likely to intensify in the coming days if UDF retains the Corporation as both 'I' and 'A' groups have their own nominees for the Mayor post.
Latin Church says it was ignored
With hours left for counting of votes in the local body elections, the Kerala Regional Lain Catholic Council (KRLCC), the political affairs committee of the Latin Catholic Church, came out in protest against the statement of Congress leader and Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) chairman N Venugopal.
Venugopal, in an interview, had said that UDF would lose at least eight seats in Kochi Corporation and that more seats were given to Christians. He also said that if the UDF won majority, a councillor belonging to Latin Church would be made the Mayor.
Countering Venugopal’s allegation that more seats were given to Christians, KRLCC political affairs convenor Shaji George said that the Church did not want to interfere in the group war of Congress party. Congress leaders are dragging the Latin Church into unnecessary controversies and there were vested interests behind the sparking of the row. ‘’The fact is that UDF did not give due consideration to Latin Church while selecting candidates. There is no point in raking up the issue now that the election is over,’’ Saji George said.