Power Struggle Within The Congress In Kerala — K Sudhakaran Is In The Middle Of Factional Feuds

S Rajesh

May 26, 2024, 06:00 AM | Updated May 25, 2024, 07:48 PM IST

K Sudhakaran (C) and other Congress leaders
K Sudhakaran (C) and other Congress leaders
  • There are rumblings within the Congress party against K Sudhakaran. Here we look at the reasons why, as well as learn about the Kerala Congress president briefly.
  • The Kerala unit of the Congress party recently saw K Sudhakaran take over the post of president once again, after a brief handover to M M Hassan.

    Sudhakaran had stepped down temporarily to focus on his Lok Sabha campaign in Kannur.

    However, the transition wasn’t smooth. Hassan himself and V D Satheesan, the leader of the opposition, were absent from the event. Sudhakaran, too, didn’t hide his displeasure about their absence on the occasion.

    There were also rumours that Hassan might continue as interim president till the declaration of results, instead of Sudhakaran re-assuming charge.

    One of Hassan's decisions, that is, ending the suspension of Congress leader M A Latheef, was soon revoked by Sudhakaran. Latheef then said that he would approach K C Venugopal, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary (organisation).

    Who Is Sudhakaran?

    Before we come to the reasons for the rumblings within the Congress against Sudhakaran, especially when the party is expected to win seats in the double digits in Kerala, here is a short background about him:

    Sudhakaran, who belongs to the same generation of leaders as Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the late Oomen Chandy, hails from Kannur.

    Like Vijayan, he belongs to the Ezhava community, which is one of the important players in the state’s politics.

    According to political commentators, he enjoys good relations with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and that has helped him survive the violent politics of Kannur.

    It was just a couple of days ago that Sudhakaran was acquitted in a case filed against him for allegedly attempting to murder the current Left Democratic Front (LDF) convenor E P Jayarajan while he was on a train in Andhra Pradesh.

    Commentators say Sudhakaran is a mass leader and one of the Congress party’s best bets to take on Vijayan.

    “However, Sudhakaran is someone who isn’t able to take everyone along. He needs a carte blanche to work well. He is also known for speaking whatever comes to his mind and often gets into trouble for that.

    "He doesn’t enjoy a good equation with Satheesan, either. There was a video of him using expletives against Satheesan when he came late for a press conference during their statewide Samaragni yatra," one of them said.

    Congress' Perennial Problem

    As for the reasons for what’s happening in the Congress, the answer lies in what could be called the party’s ‘perennial problem’ in Kerala — factions.

    “What was earlier just the ‘A group’ (headed by A K Antony and Oomen Chandy) and the ‘I group’ (headed by Ramesh Chennithala) has now expanded to a K C Venugopal faction and a coterie around Sudhakaran himself and Satheesan.

    "Venugopal has become powerful after becoming the general secretary (organisation), and Satheesan, too, has cemented himself as a leader.

    "Sudhakaran and Satheesan are both from the I group, but they do not get along well. Hassan is from the A group," the commentator continued.

    Beyond factions, there are such reasons as irregularities during the elections for posts in the Youth Congress (for example, the alleged use of fake voter ID cards, which was flagged by BJP state president K Surendran), the shifting of the party’s traditional support base, like the Nairs (to the BJP), the Muslims (to the LDF), and the Christians (to the BJP and LDF).

    Further, there is a possibility of Sudhakaran losing the Kannur seat, as the BJP has put up C Raghunath, who was considered Sudhakaran's right-hand man. This aspect, too, could be going against him.

    Who Might Replace Sudhakaran?

    "Well, there is no one name. A lot of leaders would be interested. Ramesh Chennithala, Satheesan, and Hassan himself are some of them who are likely to throw their hat in the ring," a Congress member said.

    Another political commentator said there is even talk of the party appointing a Christian leader as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief to retain their support.

    "A K Antony is not so active any more, and after Oomen Chandy's death, there is no big Christian face for the party anymore. So, elevating a new person could help the party," he said.

    All said and done, Sudhakaran might actually sail through and continue as PCC president, while the rumblings may remain what they are — rumblings, especially if the results are satisfactory for the party.

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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