Amid growing discontent in the Kerala Congress over the selection of District Congress Committee (DCC) chiefs, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday reminded the state leaders of the spirit of “collective leadership” even as the party strived to appease protesting veterans, including Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.
“Over the years, Congress in Kerala has set a stellar example of collective leadership. This collective spirit reflects the true ethos of the Congress party,” Rahul Gandhi said at a function organised virtually on the occasion of the inauguration of the Kannur District Congress Committee office.
Although Rahul Gandhi did not refer to the organisational issues in Kerala, his statement assumes significance in view of the rising discontentment in the state leadership following the announcement of 14 DCC presidents allegedly ignoring the sentiments of Mr Chandy and Mr Chennithala.
The two leaders, who controlled Kerala Congress for 18 years, had come out openly against the way DCC presidents were selected by new leaders of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC), including its president K Sudhakaran and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, VD Satheesan.
Reaching out to the warring leaders, Congress general secretary and Kerala in-charge Tariq Anwar described both Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala as the “pillars of the party” in Kerala and said all decisions on organisational matters will be taken after consulting them.
The leadership, however, made it clear that KPCC chief K Sudhakaran will have the last word in the party’s organisational matters in the state.
“There may be differences. But we will move forward with resolving all such issues. On the organisation matters of the Congress in Kerala, K Sudhakaran is the last word,” VD Satheesan said at the DCC office inaugural function attended by Congress general secretary KC Venugopal and VD Sudhakaran.
Both Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala joined Rahul Gandhi in the virtual function.
Talking to reporters, KC Venugopal rejected the allegations that he was trying to create his own group within the state Congress.
“I don’t have any group. It’s a figment of (their) imagination. Congress is my group and I have nothing beyond that,” Mr Venugopal said, rejecting allegations of the “A” group headed by Oommen Chandy and “I” group led by Ramesh Chennithala.
The two groups – “A” and “I” – have been active in the state unit of Congress since the times of veteran leader K Karunakaran and senior leader AK Antony.
The groups have complained to Sonia Gandhi against the style of functioning of the new state leadership, allegedly with the blessings of KC Venugopal.
Urging the leaders to accept the decision taken by the high command on the selection of DCC chiefs, Mr Venugopal said the party’s central leadership is ready to hear their grievances.
Amid mounting pressure from the groups ahead of another round of organisational revamp, he said both Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala are an integral part of the Congress in Kerala and all decisions will be taken after consulting them.
K Sudhakaran said he has a “formula” to sort out all issues raised by Mr Chandy and Mr Chennithala “with the permission of high command”.
He said the party will surge ahead in Kerala with the implementation of the new programmes being planned by its new leadership.
“No one can keep away from it,” K Sudhakaran said.
He also claimed that party leader AV Gopinath, who announced his resignation from the primary membership of the Congress early this week, will not leave the party.
As the voice of dissent grew louder against the KPCC leadership, the Congress cracked the whip expelling KPCC secretary PS Prasanth from the party who had written to the high command alleging that KC Venugopal was working as “an agent of the BJP”.
Sending a strong message to those leaders who violate the party discipline, the Congress had also issued show-cause notices to two of its senior leaders, who were suspended temporarily two days ago for publicly expressing displeasure over the selection of the party’s district chiefs by the All India Congress Committee.
In the notices sent to former MLA K Sivadasan Nair and former KPCC general secretary KP Anil Kumar, the KPCC president has directed them to respond within seven days, failing which follow-up action will be taken against them.