By Sunil Dang
Congress circles are abuzz with the speculation that former Kerala CM Oommen Chandy is eyeing the Kottayam Lok Sabha seat on a personal agenda, but there may be a backlash from the voters of Kottyam for the manner in which Kerala Congress (M) MP Jose K Mani has been favoured through the Rajya Sabha seat at the cost of senior Congress leaders PJ Kurien. Senior Congress MLA K Muraleedharan has openly said that Chandy, PK Kunhalikutty and Ramesh Chennithala had promised to give the Rajya Sabha seat to the KC (M) when they visited party chairman KM Mani at Pala seeking his support for the UDF in Chengannur.
Though KPCC leadership used to seek the senior Congress leaders’ views earlier on such matters, this time, they held no deliberations with me or the other leaders. In fact PJ Kurien, PC Chacko and Benny Behanan were seeking other Congress leaders’ support for the RS seat and the top KPCC leadership was aware of it.
It has sparked the rift between the supporters and leaders of KC (M). Now, Congress leaders of anti-Oommen group (read Christian leaders on the periphery of Kerala Congress) have antagonized with Mani and his son Jose K Mani and has jeopardized Mani’s son’s bid to Lok Sabha in 2019. Earlier, junior Mani had sought the help of the CPM and the BJP. But finding no response, he approached the UDF. The Idukki LS seat will go to the PJ Joseph faction and Kottayam seat will be given to Chandy Oommen — son of Oommen Chandy. So, by plotting this scheme, Oommen Chandy has ensured safe entry of his son into the polity by jeopardizing future of majority of his rivals — both on his side and on his opposite side.
This is not the first time; when Chandy has indulged in vindictive politics. After the 2014 debacle, Congress Party had set up a committee headed by AK Antony, another importantinfluential politician from Kerala, to find the reason for poll route. Antony committee honestly did its job and submitted its report to the CWC. The report suggested that minority appeasement hasn’t gone down well among the Hindus. So, there is need for course correction. This irked some of the heavy weight Congress leaders from minority communities in New Delhi. Chandy looking for opportunity to push his rival to corners, played his cards and now it’s ironical that Antony who was once tipped as one of the closest Congress leader to Sonia Gandhi is nowhere in the picture these days. After death of K Karunakaran in December 2010, AK Antony was one of the major faces of Congress Party in Kerala. But, after Antony was side lined, it’s Oommen Chandy and PJ Kurien who have taken Centre stage in the state politics. Now, since Kurien too has been denied ticket, I am sure that he won’t be given Lok Sabha ticket as it may jeopardize the launch of Chandy Junior in politics.
But, from Congress perspective, it won’t be advisable to rely on one leader in an important state like Kerala. When K Karunakaran was facing court heat in Palm Oil Scam, AK Antony took over and sailed the Congress boat successfully. Similarly, when Antony was serving in national politics as Defense Minister, Oommen Chandy took over to take care of the state affairs. Now, giving state baton into the hands of Oommen Chandy, who is planning to launch his son in politics, I doubt that history is going to repeat in Kerala. Congress suffered ahead of 2016 assembly polls in Assam where no other leader was visible except TarunGogoi and his son Gaurav Gogoi. So, it’s high time when the party president has to intervene and correct these potentially hazardous decisions. This political shunting of own leaders may give BJP a window of opportunity to have its foothold in Kerala and the grand old party may have to lose one more state into the hands of BJP as it happened in North East.