Amid growing discontent in Congress in Kerala over selection of DCC chiefs, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday reminded the state leaders of the spirit of "collective leadership" even as the party strived to mollify protesting veterans including Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala. "Over the years, Congress in Kerala has set a stellar example of collective leadership. This collective spirit reflects the true ethos of the Congress party," Gandhi said at a function organised virtually on the occasion of the inauguration of Kannur District Congress Committee office. Although Gandhi did not refer to the organisational issues in the state party, his statement assumes significance in view of rising discontent in the state leadership following the announcement of 14 District Congress Committee presidents allegedly ignoring sentiments of Chandy and Chennithala.
The duo, who controlled the state Congress for 18 years, had come out openly against the manner in which the selection of DCC presidents was made by new leaders of KPCC including its president K Sudhakaran and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, V D Satheesan. Reaching out to warring leaders, AICC general secretary (in-charge, Kerala) Tariq Anwar described both Chandy and Chennithala as "pillars of the party" in Kerala and said all decisions on organisational matters will be taken after consulting with them.
The leadership, however, made it clear that PCC chief Sudhakaran will have the last word in the party's organisational matters in the state. "There may be differences. But we will move forward resolving all such issues. On the organisation matters of the Congress in Kerala, Sudhakaran is the last word," Satheesan said at the DCC office inaugural function attended by AICC general secretary K C Venugopal and Sudhakaran.
Both Chandy and Chennithala joined Gandhi in the virtual function. Talking to reporters here, Venugopal rejected the allegations that he was trying to create his own group in the state Congress.
"I don't have any group. It's a figment of (their) imagination. Congress is my group and I have nothing beyond that," Venugopal said, rejecting allegations of the "A" group headed by Chandy and "I" group led by Chennithala. The two groups- "A" and "I"- have been active in the state unit of Congress since the period of veteran leader and late K Karunakaran and senior leader A K Antony.
The groups have complained to Sonia Gandhi against the style of functioning of the new state leadership, allegedly with the blessings of Venugopal. Urging the leaders to accept the decision taken by the high command on selection of DCC chiefs, Venugopal said the party's central leadership was ready to hear their grievances. Amid mounting pressure from the groups ahead of another round of organisational revamp, he also said both Chandy and Chennithala are an integral part of the Congress in Kerala and all decisions will be taken after consulting with them. Sudhakaran said he has a "formula" to sort out all issues raised by Chandy and Chennithala "with the permission of high command".
He said the party will surge ahead in Kerala with the implementation of new programmes being planned by its new leadership. "No one can keep away from it," Sudhakaran said.
He also claimed that party leader A V Gopinath who announced his resignation from the primary membership of the Congress early this week will not leave the party. As the voice of dissent grew louder against the KPCC leadership, the Congress had cracked the whip expelling KPCC secretary P S Prasanth from the party who wrote a letter to the high command alleging that AICC general secretary K C Venugopal was working as "an agent of the BJP". Sending a strong message to those leaders who violate the party discipline, the Congress had also issued show cause notices to two of its senior leaders, who were temporarily suspended two days ago for publicly expressing displeasure over the selection of the party's district chiefs by the AICC.
In the notices sent to former MLA K Sivadasan Nair and former KPCC general secretary K P Anil Kumar, the KPCC president has directed them to respond in seven days, else follow up action will be taken against them.