THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Following the demoralising setback suffered by the Congress in the recent assembly elections, the party’s national leadership made its intentions of overhauling the Kerala unit clear by appointing VD Satheesan as the Opposition leader on Saturday.
Despite some intense lobbying and pressure tactics employed by incumbent Ramesh Chennithala and ex-chief minister Oommen Chandy in favour of the former, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the party’s national general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal heeded the demand and sentiments of the young leaders, who called for a change.
The Congress leadership also took into account the change of political environment triggered by the revolutionary steps taken by the CPM and CPI to replace an entire generation of political leaders with fresh faces.
It is learnt that the numerous e-mails received by the high command from the youth leaders in Kerala highlighted how the CPM had successfully engineered a generational shift and how the Congress would find it tough to take on the vigorous new leadership of the CPM at the grass-roots level.
The decision on the Congress legislature party (CLP) leader was conveyed by Mallikarjun Kharge, the central observer who was assigned to oversee the CLP leader selection, to state Congress president Mullappally Ramachandran who subsequently announced the decision.
When the first session of the 15th assembly starts on Monday, Mullappally will give a letter to Pro-tem Speaker, PTA Rahim, informing him of the Congress party’s decision on the CLP leader.
It is learnt that Satheesan’s appointment is only the beginning and the Congress high command will appoint new leaders in other key posts and revamp all organisational committees so that the UDF can perform well in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
A new state Congress chief and a new UDF convenor will also be appointed in the coming days. Close on the heels of Satheesan's appointment, Mullappally has conveyed his willingness to quit to the high command.
Appointment major blow to 'A', 'I groups
Sources said that Mullappally and UDF convenor MM Hassan will be replaced only after the fact finding committee led by Ashok Chavan files its report.
Chavan panel was appointed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi last week with a two-week deadline to submit a report on organisational reforms in states where the party had lost recent polls. "I will stand by the decision taken by Congress high command. My stand has been transparent and the central leadership is also convinced about it," said Mullappally.
Satheesan, who is known for his oratory skills and academic interpretation of policy matters, has been the trump card of the opposition when they had taken on the ruling front on policy matters. He began his career as a KSU worker and was the chairman of MG University union.
Satheesan’s appointment is a major blow to the two prominent groups in the state Congress, led by Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala. Though Satheesan was attached to the ‘I’ group, he has been working independently for long.
The decision of two factional leaders to unite to keep Satheesan out did upset the national leadership. It is learnt Chennithala had sought the support of a few tall central leaders to ensure his continuance in office.
“Satheesan has already proved his mettle as a legislator. I wish him all success. History will consider Chennithala as the best Opposition leader,” said Mullappally.Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also congratulated him. “Satheesan will be a very good opposition leader. We all have seen his performance in the assembly,” Pinarayi said.
CHENNITHALA VACATES CANTONMENT HOUSE
Later in the day, Sonia called up Chennithala and Chandy and urged them to give all support to Satheesan. Chennithala and his family shifted from his official residence, Cantonment House to his own house at Vazhuthacaud.