With the finalising of the candidates for approximately 92 seats that the Congress party is likely to contest in the April 6 Assembly polls, things have reached a difficult point with faction leaders rooting for their close aides.
Though the scene has shifted from Kerala to Delhi, the first round of meeting for finalising the candidates failed to evoke any positive response, as top leaders like Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and state Congress president Mullapally Ramachandran, failed to come to a consensus on the list that has to be submitted to the high command for their approval.
One new entrant into the higher echelons of the Congress party who wields considerable power is K.C.Venugopal and since he has the blessings of the high command, he is also one who will be making the decisions and he too has his own list .
A top Congress leader on condition of anonymity said things are moving but not at the desired pace as according to the present scheme of things, the high command wants to name the list on Wednesday.
“What’s happening now is these leaders are leaving nothing to chance to see their aides are in the list.
“Over the years what has made them leaders are how many close aides each one of them has and to reward them appropriately.
“This time things appear to be tough as Rahul Gandhi by virtue of being a Lok Sabha member from Kerala and knowing the ground reality is also playing a key role. He wants to have more representation be given to the youths, women and those from the lower strata of the society,” said the source.
Chandy, who is the top-most state leader is wanting to see that his closest aides, eight time legislator K.C.Joseph be given one last chance besides K. Babu, who had to face a lot of attack as the then Excise Minister (2011-16) in the now infamous bar scam case. Babu had lost in the 2016 Assembly polls.
Chennithala is also moving heaven and earth to see his aides like Joseph Vazhakkan be given a chance after he lost in 2016. Jyothikumar Chamakala, who is yet to stand in any election, is also from Chennithala’s camp.
He is also rooting for Bindhu Krishna, who so far has failed to win despite contesting for the Lok Sabha and Assembly in past polls.
“It’s understandable why these faction leaders are desperate to get their aides because in the Congress party, as a norm, do not name a chief ministerial candidate, instead if it gets power, what happens is the Congress legislative party (all the legislators) meets to elect their leader and it’s here they need their aides to raise their hands for them, in case an election becomes essential,” said another Congress leader.
Incidentally after the Congress party won the 2011 assembly polls with just 72 seats in the 140 member assembly, only after the high command intervened, did Chennithala back out from contesting for the post of the chief minister, against Chandy.
In return, after being mauled by the Left in the 2016 assembly polls, Chandy decided not to throw his hat for the election of choosing the leader of the Congress legislators and Chennithala was elected unanimously.
Over the years in Kerala, never has a sitting government been able to retain power and hence there is all the more competition between the faction leaders in the Congress party to get in as many aides as possible.
“The final rounds of discussions are going on and in a day or two, the list of candidates of our party will be announced. Isn’t it quite natural in the Congress party to have a few rounds before the list is finalised,” said senior Congress laeder and Lok Sabha member Kodikunnil Suresh, who recently shifted his allegiance to the Chandy camp.
All in all it’s going to be a tough time as Gandhi is rooting for new faces and if the screening committee chairman H.K.Patil’s words is any yardstick to go by, then for the first time there could be as many as 45 new faces in the Congress list and if it happens, then the faction managers will have to bite the dust.