On Sunday (27 September), Congress member of Parliament (MP) Benny Behanan resigned as the convenor of the Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.
Yesterday, the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chairman K Muraleedharan, also an MP, resigned.
Both these resignations have rattled the UDF, which was totally unaware of the developments.
Both have resigned mainly in view of the internal problems within the Congress, which is now affecting the UDF, an alliance of eight parties, in taking on the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala.
The development comes at a time when the government led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) in the State has been mired in a slew of controversies, starting from the Kerala gold smuggling case that has dragged even Chief Minister Pinaryai Vijayan’s office.
Muraleedharan, son of the late Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran and representing the Kozhikode Lok Sabha constituency, told the media that had “difference of opinion” in matters of party reorganization but he would not air his view in public.
“No discussions take place within the party. I come to know of party decisions only on reading it from media. Party leaders' statements are affecting the local party workers,” he said.
Muraleedharan said he would not want to discuss further on the issue as it could affect the party’s image in the State as well as nationally, particularly when the UDF would be one of the strong contestants in the oncoming local bodies elections.
Muraleedharan’s resignation is seen as a protest against the party’s reluctance to allow him to return to State politics, particularly when the party prospects in the Assembly elections, scheduled in April next year, look promising.
Last year, Muraleedharan had wanted to contest Assembly by-elections from Vatiyoorkavu constituency, a Congress stronghold in Thiruvananthapuram, but he was not allowed.
It resulted in the LDF winning the seat.
Though Behanan, who represents the Chalakudy Lok Sabha constituency in Thrissur district, has not made his reasons public, media reports attributed it to his dissatisfaction over the party’s functioning.
The Indian Union Muslim League, a dominant partner in the UDF, feels the internal problems of the Congress is affecting the UDF, particularly in its fight against the LDF.
The UDF had been staging protests against the LDF and demanding the resignation of State Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel.
The minister has been questioned by the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Director in connection with the Kerala gold smuggling case and importing copies of Quran without Centre’s permission through the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Customs Department has now filed cases against him for importing the religious texts.
In view of the Congress problems, the UDF has stopped its protests after nearly a week.
Though the party has cited rising cases of novel Coronavirus as a reason to put off the protests, observers say this has to do more with Congress problems.
The Congress is dogged by the “A” and “I” factions in Kerala.
“A” is the faction owing allegiance to former union minister A K Antony and includes former chief minister Oommen Chandy, while “I” comprising loyalists of the late Karunakaran has leaders such as Ramesh Chennithala.
Both factions are opposed to Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief Mullapally Ramachandran.
With Assembly elections just months away, both factions are involved in a tussle to gain an upper hand before the poll schedule is announced.
This will help the one that gains to put up its supporter as the party’s candidate in the elections.
In the Lok Sabha elections last year, the “A” faction gained the upper hand, thanks to Chandy’s efforts.
However, the UDF won 19 of the 20 seats at stake as the LDF was “punished” for its stand on the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple controversy and poor handling of the floods during 2017.
The IUML is worried over the development as it wants to put the LDF on the backfoot by demanding the resignation of Jaleel, who is the former’s headache in its strongholds such as Malappuram district.
For now, the internal problems of the Congress have given the LDF government some breather.
M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani
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