From the impressive high of the 2019 parliamentary elections to the debacle in the recent local body polls, the fortunes of the Congress in Kerala have taken a swift and unbelievable tumble. Demoralised by the downturn, the party is staring down the barrel with only a couple of months to go for the Assembly elections.
But two recent developments should give it some hope. One, there has been some honest stock-taking with the central leadership dispatching its emissary to assess the damage and carry out repair work. Two, the party managed to send out a message of unity and purpose by putting together a 10-member team comprising leaders from many factions to oversee election preparations.
The inclusion of Shashi Tharoor, still considered an outsider by Congress leaders in the state, was a welcome surprise and indicated the party’s willingness to try and do all it can to win the coming elections.
However, regaining the lost ground in time for the polls is easier said than done and overcoming the party’s inner divisions seems almost improbable.
Given the ruling LDF’s advantages going into the polls, the Congress will have to try more than it ever did to avoid being out of power for another five years. There are a few things it can do. One, put aside the traditional ‘I’ versus ‘A’ factional rivalry, at least temporarily. Two, keep the task of solving the tricky puzzle of who will be CM till after the election.
An attempt at this stage will worsen the divisions. Three, give Mullappally Ramachandran, the current president of the party unit, a break. With him contesting, it would be wise to entrust the party captaincy to someone else. Either K Sudhakaran or K Muraleedharan, both Lok Sabha members, can fill in. Four, pick candidates on merit, with winnability being a key criterion.
Fielding fresh faces in place of the tried and tested ones along with more women candidates will help the party create a buzz of optimism around its prospects. The leaders will do well to utilise the time they have for developing election strategies than fuelling the factional feud. The focus should be on fighting the war, not sharing its spoils.