A month after the Congress’s demoralising defeat in Assembly elections in Kerala, the party high command Tuesday appointed Lok Sabha MP K Sudhakaran as the state unit president and named three working presidents to assist him.
Lok Sabha MP Kodikkunnil Suresh, one of the contenders for the state chief’s post, will continue as working president. P T Thomas and T Siddique will be the other working presidents.
Sources said senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, an MP from Kerala’s Wayanad, conveyed the leadership’s decision to Sudhakaran over the phone.
Sudhakaran’s appointment as Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president, means the Congress top brass has sidelined the dominant factions in the state unit led by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and former Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala.
Although Sudhakaran, a fiery orator, is well entrenched in the state’s politics, sources said both Chandy and Chennithala factions would not have preferred him, given a choice. According to them, Chandy and Chennithala did not suggest names for the KPCC post when AICC in-charge Tariq Anwar sought their views — both knew the high command was considering Sudhakaran.
A former minister, Sudhakaran is a four-term MLA and second time MP. He was also chief of the party’s Kannur district unit and is now MP from the same Lok Sabha constituency.
The Congress central leadership had earlier appointed V D Satheesan as Leader of Opposition against the wishes of Chennithala and Chandy. An upset Chennithala had then written to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi saying he felt “humiliated”.
For now, Sudhakaran’s biggest challenge is to secure the support of both Chandy and Chennithala. After his appointment, Sudhakaran promised a a complete overhaul of the party unit.
Sudhakaran is seen as a strongman who took on the CPI(M) aggressively and, at times, violently, in the latter’s stronghold in Kannur the 1990s. In 1993, CPI(M) worker Nalpadi Vasu was shot dead by Sudhakaran’s security officer. Decades later, he justified the action saying the officer had opened fire to protect him and that the rifle was given to the officer for protection and not to shoot down crows. In 1997, he was taken into custody for his alleged involvement in the attempt to murder Kannur CPI(M) Secretary E P Jayarajan in April 1995.
Meanwhile, since P T Thomas was being considered as UDF chairman, it remains to be seen if K V Thomas, theworking president Thomas replaced, would be considered for the same post.