THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Though the UDF Government in Kerala has managed to cross over the challenge posed by the bar licence issue, the damage it has done to the leading partner Congress Party’s unity has reportedly irked Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who was forced to take the extreme step of closing the 312 bars currently functional in the state along with the 418 bars which have been remaining closed for the last four months, is visibly annoyed at the way he had been coerced by the KPCC president V M Sudheeran. Sonia Gandhi and the central leadership are worried about the latest development in the state unit of the party. In the given situation, Congress cannot afford to have its mass base eroded further in a state like Kerala which is the last point at which the party can claim a foothold with confidence.
But when contacted, Sudheeran told ‘Express’ that the reports about the party high command expressing displeasure over the developments here was not true.
“In fact I don’t like to make any comment at this juncture. But, till this moment, neither Sonia Gandhi nor any other leader from the high command has contacted me or expressed any displeasure about the stand I had taken on the bar issue. As of now, I don’t want to react to the any comments by any leader here’’ he said.
The church leaders from the state also had come to New Delhi to meet Sonia Gandhi on the other day and appraised her of the prevailing situation in the state.
Following this, she had met A K Antony and discussed the issue. Antony’s take was to let the party leaders to settle the issue in Kerala itself. Meanwhile, the critics of Sudheeran has apprised Sonia that Sudheeran in his efforts to boost his image had depicted the Chief Minister as the patron of the liquor lobby. Despite having managed to find a way out and depicted as the ultimate victor in the partisan media, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had to face the brunt of attack from Sudheeran who stood like a wall against the mounting pressure from the liquor lobby.
Having faced the disgrace of being depicted as the patron of the liquor lobby was the last straw for Oommen Chandy and he has clearly expressed his displeasure at it. Meanwhile, the ‘I’ group led by Ramesh Chennithala also has reportedly expressed its displeasure over Sudheeran’s treatment of the Chief Minister and other ministers who were not for total prohibition.
Ramesh Chennitala had a clear stand from the beginning that the bars which has been renovated to the required standard may allowed to be reopened. But with the pressure mounting on the Chief Minister from the second major coalition partner Muslim League and even from K M Mani at the behest of the Catholic Church, there was little option for the Congress leaders but to press for the closure of all bars. However, a top leader of the ‘I’ group on condition of anonymity said nobody in the ‘I’ group had any problem with the Sudheeran. He also added that party would not want allow the mileage it had received to be lost in the name of petty squabbles being perpetuated by a section of leaders.