THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Being sidelined in his party is nothing new for Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala. Yet, his exasperation upon learning that the high command had rejected his legitimate claim for a berth in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) was clear as daylight.
“(I’m) not responding,” was his cryptic answer when a reporter approached him for his response on naming him a permanent invitee, and not a member, of the powerful decision-making body of the party.
Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, who had challenged Mallikarjun Kharge in the Congress president election, was given precedence over Chennithala and was made a member of the CWC.
Veteran leader A K Antony and AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal retained their positions in the body, while senior MP Kodikunnil Suresh was made a special invitee. Chennithala, who had canvassed across the country for Kharge in the AICC election and dutifully spearheaded the war against the LDF government in the state, despite not holding any party posts for the last two years, was hoping for a CWC berth.
A leader close to him told TNIE that Chennithala is “devastated”. He was campaigning for UDF candidate Chandy Oommen in Puthuppally on Sunday afternoon and later left for his constituency in Haripad.
“He’ll convey his resentment to the central Congress leadership shortly. He truly deserved to be in the CWC, the high command’s decision was harsh.
He had held the post of permanent invitee 19 years ago. So, he deserves a berth in the CWC considering his seniority and the exemplary role he had been playing in the party,” the leader said. However, it was certain from the very beginning that the tussle would be between Chennithala and Tharoor.
Community equations played spoilsport
It was certain that only one among them would be accommodated in the CWC due to community equations. Speculation was rife that Tharoor was contemplating forming a new party in case of denial of CWC berth. He had also sent missives to the leadership that he would not be content with permanent invitee or special invitee status.
This had placed the AICC leadership on a sticky wicket and prompted it to take a decision in favour of the three-time MP. It’s also believed that a group meeting, under the auspices of Chennithala, against Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan and state Congress president K Sudhakaran over the appointment of party block presidents had antagonised the central leadership. “Chennithala’s decision to openly revolt against the state leadership over the appointment of block presidents may prove to be a turning point in his political career,” said a senior party leader.