Ahead of the upcoming Kerala Assembly polls, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has been selected by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) to head a panel of party leaders to supervise the upcoming elections.
Chandy, who has not been active in state politics, will head the Supervisory Committee of Congress that includes 10 members so far.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Mullappally Ramachandran, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ramesh Chennithala, former KPCC President K Muraleedharan, Congress Lok Sabha member K Sudhakaran, AICC General Secretary Tariq Anwar, AICC General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal, KPCC Working President Kodikunnil Suresh etc are the part of this committee.
Congress Working Committee member AK Antony will be heading the poll campaign and would be in Kerala mid-February onward till the end of the elections.
Antony said the party would have a collective leadership and most of the candidates would be fresh and young faces, adding that the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) would come back with a bang in the 2021 Kerala Assembly elections.
However, some political commentators say that the current political experiment by Congress is a repetition of what had happened shortly after the 2016 Assembly elections. The defeat of UDF was blamed on Oommen Chandy after which he disappeared from state politics. Back then, the Congress high command felt that everything would be alright if there was a change in leadership. Soon, Ramesh Chennithala became the Opposition leader and the face of the party in the state.
This time round, the massive defeat of UDF in the recently concluded local body elections has again resulted in leaderhsip change. Thus, Chandy, who was serving as Andhra Pradesh Congress party in-charge, has become team leader for the upcoming Assembly elections. However, the party has made it clear that they will not project a chief ministerial candidate to avoid any internal bickering before the polls.
The return of Chandy to Kerala is being seen by some political commentators as a reflection of the factional fight between Congress’s A group and I group. Chennithala is the part of the I Group and Chandy is the face of A group. Though the impression is that the party high command has taken over the reins, the I Group feels that this is just a drama to replace Chennithala with Chandy.
Following the UDF’s defeat in the local body elections, the Congress has been witnessing an internal war of words in Kerala. Amidst this came the decision on Chandy’s return. Earlier this month, AICC Secretary Tarique Anwar had visited the state as well.
However, things could be tough for the Chandy camp, as the return of the former chief minister to active state politics would refresh corruption allegations during his tenure, say political observers. One of the ministers in his cabinet, VK Ebrahim Kunju, the then Minister of Public Works, is behind bars for Palarivattom Flyover corruption. Also, the report of the Justice G Sivarajan Commission on the solar scam has been tabled in the Assembly.
Also, during the recently concluded local body elections, in Chandy's own panchayat, the UDF had faced a setback even though he had been active in the campaign.
Meanwhile, the main coalition partner of Congress in the UDF, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), is happy with Chandy's return.
IUML National Organising Secretary and Member of Parliament, E.T. Mohammed Basheer, was quoted as saying that "Chandy is a seasoned politician and his coming back to the helm of affairs in the Congress party will provide a morale boost to both Congress and Muslim League cadres. He is a grassroots leader who knows the pulse of the people, and it is a welcome development as far as the Congress, the Muslim League and the UDF are concerned.’