Open war in Kerala Congress, uneasy days for UDF government

With no solution to the crisis in sight, the factional feud between Chandy and Chennithala makes the state’s coaltion government wobbly.

Published: 26th May 2013 09:01 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th May 2013 07:55 AM   |  A+A-

A furious Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Ramesh Chennithala has plunged his party into a crisis over an alleged snub by Chief Minister Oomen Chandy. Declaring that the party axis would never be the same again as he felt humiliated, Chennithala has made Chandy’s position shaky in the least.

Closing the door on any rapproachment, Chennitala, who has the backing of 18 MLAs in comparison to Chandy’s 21, has had Congress leaders including Union Minister A K Antony scrambling for a face-saving solution.

The aborted induction of Chennithala into Chandy’s cabinet as Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Home Minister set off a chain of events culminating in all-out war between the ‘A’ and ‘I’ groups in the party.

Chennithala is agitated over the fact that Chandy and his coterie “tried to humiliate him” over the ministry induction. In the last days of the ‘Kerala Yatra’ undertaken by the KPCC president, trusted lieutenants of Chandy were deputed to prevail upon him to join the ministry. The UDF government was facing severe criticism from Hindu organisations for its prominent minority face for long. Chandy was desperate for an image makeover and Chennithala,  who belongs to the Nair community, was the perfect choice.

Chennithala was also amenable to the proposal, mooted by Chandy with the blessings of Antony. But plans went awry within a few days with Chandy insisting that while he was okay with giving Chennithala the deputy CM’s post, he would not give the  home portfolio as sought by the heavyweight. Chandy was not ready to dump incumbent and confidant Tiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan.

The ‘Broad I’ group, patronised by Chennithala, reacted angrily after it became known that their leader was “ditched” by Chandy.

Chennithala was understandably furious at the turn of events and declared that the tie-up with Chandy was over.   “The chief minister can have his own way and I will have my own.There will not be any compromise,” he told The Sunday Standard.

“All, including the chief minister, know that I was not after ministership. I was approached again and again with pleas to join the government. But now I understand that it was all for humiliating me,” Chennithala told this paper. “The party-government axis will never be the same again,” he threatened. He also promised to block any effort to reinduct K B Ganesh in the government.

Frantic attempts to mollify Chennithala through emissaries by Chandy have failed so far. He is keeping away from all UDF meets and even cancelled his trip to Payyannur, where he was slated to attend a meet which Antony was also attending.

Amid the unpleasant situation, Chandy maintains that he does not want to join any controversy or ‘humiliate any leader’, as charged by Chennithala against him. “Issues needn’t be taken to the high command since it can be resolved here itself,” he says.

But Chennithala is in no mood to budge. “I’m OK. I’m not going to approach anyone for any settlement. I’m content. I’m happy,” Chennithala said, adding, “It’s true our supporters are agitated.”

Antony maintains that a solution to the crisis has to be thrashed out in the state itself. However, no gimmicks can bring even a semblance of unity in the Congress.

Groupism in the Congress has been at a low ebb for the past few years. During his eight years’ stewardship of the Congress state unit, Chennitala had struck a minimum comfort level with Chandy.


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