KOCHI: As veteran Congress leader P J Kurien's Rajya Sabha term draws to a close in June, it should be seen as an opportunity for the grand old party to nominate a bright youngster who can work with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to take the party forward into the next decade.
"For long, the young brigade in the state have been sidelined at the time of Rajya Sabha polls or for key party posts as 'old guards' lobbied and clung to their positions. This time too, if the high command chooses an old and familiar face, it will be blow to the morale of the youngsters in the party," said a young leader.
The second-rung leadership in the state Congress cites the example of the CPM which is strategically moulding leaders by granting them RS seats at a relatively young age. The Left party started to field fresh faces such as P Rajeev, K K Ragesh and K N Balagopal to the RS some years ago, dumping its earlier policy of granting seats to oldies.
"We have not raised our voice considering the party is at a crossroads now. We have been promised the RS post will go to a new face. However, the discontent may come out into the public domain if young blood is not considered this time too," said one youth leader.
Rajeev was elected to the RS in 2009 when he was barely 42 and he is now the CPM's Ernakulam district secretary while K K Ragesh who got the nod in 2015 at the age of 45, is a CPM state committee member now. Balagopal, a former SFI-DYFI leader was also a fresh face when nominated to the Upper House in 2010 and he is now the CPM's Kollam district chief.
"These CPM leaders have now become the poster boy of their party, the Congress neglected its next generation by sending 'old guards' to the Rajya Sabha time and again. The Congress in Kerala has been treating the Upper House as the party's 'old age home," said an insider.
A slew of second-generation leaders and they all shared their disillusionment on ageing war horses repeatedly getting nominated for Parliamentary posts. "The party's present leadership in Kerala came in after replacing the earlier set of leaders. However, they have clung on to their posts for the last several decades," said a youth leader, who sought anonymity. "There are several bright young leaders in the state who do not get the opportunity to become a Parliament member even once."
AICC secretary P C Vishnunath, Alappuzha DCC president M Liju, AIPC president Mathew Kuzhalnadan, Kozhikode DCC chief T Sidhique are among the few who represents the changing face of the party.
The 77-year old P J Kurien, who is the incumbent Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, is completing his third term. Prior to this, he was a six-time Lok Sabha member from 1984. Another Congress leader completing his RS term is octogenarian Vayalar Ravi currently serving out his fourth term in the Upper House.
Meanwhile, the names of Benny Behanan, KPCC chief M M Hassan and former MP P C Chacko are doing the rounds for the RS post, besides talk of Kurien possibly securing another term. As per the Opposition's strength in the Assembly , the Congress-led UDF can win only one of the three seats which will fall vacant by June. If Behanan's name is rejected for the KPCC president post, the 'A' group may be placated by giving him an RS berth. However, Hassan is also eyeing the post with the blessing of Oommen Chandy to make up for his replacement as KPCC chief. P C Chacko, who lost the Lok Sabha poll, is jockeying for the to the seat using his closeness to the Congress' brass.