Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 1: With the president of the Kerala unit of Congress Ramesh Chennithala sworn in as a minister in the Oommen Chandy cabinet Wednesday, there is curiosity about who will step into his shoes.
Chennithala became president of the party in 2005, and has been holding fort since then. Over the years, the party in the state has been divided between factions, which at first owed allegiance to K. Karunakaran and A.K. Antony. The posts of chief minister and state Congress chief have been shared between the two factions.
Also, when it came to distribution of seats in elections and even for induction into the state cabinet, care was taken to offer representation to both factions.
In recent times, the factions have coalesced around Chandy and Chennithala, and there is now great curiosity about who will now take the place of party president.
“Don’t you know? All such decisions are taken by the party high command, and who will be the new president is also a decision the leadership will take,” Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.
Among those whose names are doing the rounds are assembly speaker G. Karthikeyan, union Minister of State for Home Mulapally Ramachandran, veteran leader V.M. Sudheeran and Kannur strongman K. Sudhakaran.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, seen as having the complete confidence of the party high command and usually the one to have the last word in party affairs in his home state, was instrumental in ensuring that Chennithala changed his mind about joining the state cabinet. In the past year, Chennithala has categorically claimed he would not join the Chandy cabinet.
While Chandy is reported to prefer Karthikeyan or Ramachandran as party president, Sudheeran is seen as enjoying the confidence of both Antony and the high command.
“I too have seen reports that I am opposed to Sudheeran becoming the next president. That news is totally false and baseless. I have neither opposed Sudheeran nor anyone else,” Chandy told IANS.
With Lok Sabha polls fast approaching and the Congress settling the issue of Chennithala’s induction into the cabinet after long, a new president will soon be found. After all, the state unit of the party must announce the name of a new president as part of its readiness for the crucial polls.