THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Congress would select its next legislative party leader at a meeting of the newly elected MLAs which will be overseen by the two central party observers, Mallikarjun Kharge and V Vaithilingam, on Tuesday. Though the incumbent Ramesh Chennithala is trying all tricks up his sleeve to continue in office, the majority of the new legislators are keen on choosing 56-year-old V D Satheesan as his successor.
Kharge, Opposition Leader in the Rajya Sabha, and Vaithilingam, MP from Puducherry, will be reaching Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday morning to hold deliberations with the party’s 21 elected members on their choice of the next CLP leader. Despite the murmurs within the party against Chennithala, he remains unfazed. Chennithala’s stand is that he had proved himself as the best Opposition leader the state has ever seen. But unfortunately, it did not help the UDF in garnering votes which, he feels, was not his fault as there were undercurrents in favour of the LDF which the Opposition could not gauge in advance.
The Congress high command is also keen to see a change of guard at the state party and CLP so that the beleaguered party workers smarting under the severe poll drubbing can be energised. “Unfortunately, Chennithala is not seeing it that way. He is confident of reviving the party and UDF in the Lok Sabha elections due in 2024. Chennithala has so far not confided to his loyalists that he is not in the race for the CLP leadership which reveals his keen desire to cling on to power,” a senior newly elected MLA told TNIE.
It is reliably learnt that Satheesan who has been a legislator from Paravoor for five consecutive terms has got the silent blessings of the Congress high command. Apart from senior Congress MLAs like Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, P T Thomas and K Babu, who all belong to the ‘A’ group, the remaining MLAs, mostly youths, including Peravur MLA Sunny Joseph are expected to rally behind Satheesan. The young MLAs feel that people have not believed the words of Chennithala, which resulted in the humiliating poll defeat. They feel that a change is imminent or else, it would affect the party’s revival adversely.
“If the Congress and UDF have to bounce back, a generational shift has to be effected in the form of a vibrant leader like Satheesan as the next CLP leader. Hope and confidence should be instilled in the minds of the people and party workers. Among the 21 MLAs, 14 of them are youngsters who are likely to support Satheesan,” a young Congress MLA told TNIE. The interesting factor is that senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy, who heads the ‘A’ group, has kept mum on the whole issue. His group members are also perplexed by his silence. He has not proposed anyone’s name including that of his loyalist, 71-year-old Thiruvanchoor, who has been a seven-term MLA. A source close to Oommen Chandy told TNIE that he will abide by whatever decision the central leadership takes.