Friction in Congress as Chandy, Chennithala camps spar (Kerala Newsletter)

Thiruvananthapuram, May 25 (IANS) Is Kerala politics all about camps? The polarisation between V.S. Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan loyalists in the opposition CPI-M is old news, but the ruling Congress appears to be no better with the increasing friction between the Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala factions.

The question whether Chief Minister Chandy would include party president Chennithala, it seems, has destroyed the peace in the party. And the issue has now been tossed to the national leadership for a decision.

The media hype has added to the speculation with nearly a dozen TV channels and others leading people to believe that Chennithala would be inducted into the cabinet once he finished his statewide campaign May 18, the second anniversary of the Congress-led government. Tension grew with talk that he wanted the home portfolio.

Party spokesperson M.M. Hassan added to the buzz when he said: “It’s true that Thampanoor Ravi, Benny Behenan and myself had talked with Chennithala and Chandy on this issue.”

“We never said that Chennithala should be given this portfolio or that portfolio. Chandy said he would be only glad if Chennithala joins his team. We met both these leaders not on the basis of any particular Congress faction,” said Hassan.

Ravi, Behenan and Hassan are considered strong Chandy loyalists.

Party insiders say the majority faction in the Congress is controlled by Chandy’s close aides. The other camp is a grouping once led by K. Karunakaran and now controlled by Chennithala.

“There is a vested interest group that is hell bent on creating trouble and does not want Chennithala to become a minister. They are creating all this unnecessary confusion,” added Hassan.

The friction in the party began when Chennithala decided to contest the assembly polls in April 2011. This came as a shock for Chandy and his supporters.

“The issue remains the same and only the actors have changed in the state unit of the Congress party. The issue as always is ‘power’ and the leaders here have never been able to share power in an equitable manner,” said a top Congress leader who did not wish to be identified.

While Chandy has no issue in giving a berth to Chennithala, the point of contention appears to be the home portfolio.

For almost three decades, the practice has been that the chief minister keeps home to himself.

“It’s most unfortunate that Chennithala is being humiliated. This should end for the good of the party here. We have nothing against the leadership of Chandy,” said legislator Joseph Vazhakkan, who is close to Chennithala.

The national leadership has asked Defence Minister A.K. Antony to intervene to sort out the issue. He is expected to talk to both Chandy and Chennithala.

While Chandy has said all issues would be sorted out through talks, the Chennithala faction knows it is in a minority and the leadership has to intervene to get what it wants.

Convener of Congress-led United Democratic Front P.P. Thankachan has said issues would be sorted out during a meeting of all leaders on May 30.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])

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