In Delhi if the Congress G-23 leaders are understood to have held the Gandhi family responsible for the debacle in the recent state polls, the villain in Kerala is none other than 58-year-old K.C. Venugopal, the closest aide of Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi.
Soon after the failure, posters cropped up near the party office at Kannur’s Sreekandapuram, which read “Save Congress-thanks to Venugopal for what happened in 5 states where Congress was wiped out”.
Apparently, Venugopal hails from Kannur which is also the home district of state party president K. Sudhakaran.
Ever since he was made the Congress general secretary in-charge of organisational affairs, the stock of Venugopal has been on the rise, leaving behind seasoned veterans and seniors in the party.
The growth trajectory of the new Congress strongman began when in the 1990s, his closeness with the then all powerful K. Karunakaran gave him the initial momentum.
His closeness with Rahul Gandhi helped him clinch nomination from Rajasthan to the Upper House and since then he has been ruling the roost, much to the dislike of veterans like Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and also Sudhakaran.
Venugopal’s discretion in the distribution of seats in the 2021 April Assembly polls resulted in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan creating records of sorts for getting a second term. When things went haywire, the Congress party high command took over and brought in V.D. Satheesan as the Leader of Opposition, even when Chennithala had the majority support of the legislators.
A media critic on the condition of anonymity said not many in the Congress have a clue on the sudden ascendancy of Venugopal.
“One reason is with 81-year-old A.K. Antony, in all likelihood, returning to his home in the state capital after his present Upper House term ends on April 2. Rahul Gandhi wished to get someone with whom he is more comfortable than the seasoned veterans who are based out of Kerala, the fortunes of Venugopal went high. And Venugopal used the theory of strike when the iron is hot and surged ahead,” said the critic.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Venugopal appears to have distanced himself from Sudhakaran and decided to team up with Satheesan, whose sudden promotion has not gone down well with the veterans here. They know that no one can move forward without a faction and the latest faction in the party is known as the KD faction — a new alliance between Satheesan and Venugopal.
With the G-23 also directing their vent against Venugopal, if the party’s first family decides for a reversal, then Venugopal’s future would be jeopardised as he has very little support here.