Opposition Leader Satheeshan calls on Ommen Chandy to resolve disputes in Congress

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan earlier said the Congress was disintegrating, and the rank and file of the party had lost faith in the faction-riven leadership

Opposition Leader V. D. Satheeshan called on Congress veteran Oomen Chandy at his house at Puthupallly in Kottayam on Sunday to ease the strain in inner-party relations caused by the contentious appointment of District Congress Committee (DCC) presidents.

The visit came a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Congress was disintegrating, and the rank and file of the party had lost faith in the faction-riven leadership.

Mr. Satheeshan told journalists there were some issues in the Congress in Kerala. Such disputes were common in political parties, and Congress was no exception. "You cannot close your eyes to problems and say the world is dark," he said.

The party would resolve concerns and bridge the communication gap between leaders, Mr. Satheeshan said while adding he would meet with other senior leaders, including Ramesh Chennithala.

The Opposition leader pointedly refused to answer whether the party’s official leadership, primarily Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Sudhakaran and Mr. Satheeshan, was unyielding to suggestions from the old guard, particularly Mr. Chandy and Mr. Chennithala.

When pressed that Congress veteran and MLA Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan had raised such an allegation, Mr. Satheeshan said, "I am here to settle issues and not aggravate them. I usually reserve barbed, tit-for-tat, and quick-fire repartee for political opponents and not for fellow Congress workers," he said.

Mr. Chandy seemed not to hide his pain in "not being kept in the loop" about Congress reorganisation. "A difficult situation that pained me had occurred. There are issues in Congress. A resolution is possible through discussions," he told reporters.

When pressed about KPCC official leadership’s "no group only party" mantra, Mr. Chandy said, "Congress first and group second."

Mr. Chandy, the face of the traditional A-group in the KPCC, had reportedly complained to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) that Mr. Sudhakaran and Mr. Satheeshan, the official leadership, had not consulted him in the appointment of DCC presidents.

Moreover, KPCC president Mr. Sudhakaran had acted in bad faith by revealing the contemporaneous notes the latter had taken down during closed-door talks with Mr. Chandy about DCC leadership change.

Mr. Chandy had also reportedly pointed out to the AICC that the KPCC leadership had unilaterally appointed DCC presidents and falsely claimed that he had endorsed the list to cause disarray among A group loyalists.

Mr. Chennithala, leader of the I-group, also raised a litany of similar complaints against the official leadership.

The A and I groups felt the incumbent "power pair" of Mr. Satheeshan and Mr. Sudhakaran functioned as an emergent group in the KPCC and had the tacit backing of AICC general secretary, organisation, K. C. Venugopal.

The perception had caused a realignment of forces, with Mr. Chennithala emerging as a powerful proponent of Mr. Chandy and vice versa.

Mr. Venugopal had said in Kannur recently that he headed no group.

The KPCC leadership had the AICC mandate to effect a generational shift in Kerala leadership. The emphasis was on merit and acceptance by the party’s rank and file rather than group loyalties.

Meanwhile, the AICC general secretary in charge of Kerala, Tariq Anwar, is scheduled to visit the State soon to address the newly appointed DCC presidents.

Mr. Anwar’s mission also reportedly involved brokering a rapprochement between the KPCC’s official leadership and the party’s powerful A and I factions.

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