Congress in Kerala has once again come to a boiling point with the announcement of its candidate in the Aruvikkara by-election to be held on June 27. The by-poll is a result of the sudden demise of speaker G Karthikeyan on March this year. Dissent fumes within the party over picking of late Congress leader G Karthikeyan’s son K S Sabarinathan as the candidate. The student’s wing of the party KSU and Youth Congress has come out in the open against the decision of the party to field an inexperienced candidate. They alleged that KPCC’s decision has once again showed how the party favours family politics.
The decision to field Sabari clearly indicates that the Congress is not ready to face the by-poll by brandishing their achievements but by projecting GK and to muster a win on the sympathy wave. Earlier, the state Congress leadership had tried to persuade Karthikeyan’s widow M T Sulekha to contest, but she refused the offer citing emotional reasons. This gave way to a little confusion in the Congress in picking up an able candidate against CPM strongman and former minister, M Vijayakumar in the election.
The district leadership of the party wanted V M Sudheeran to contest if Sulekha refused the seat. However, the close door meeting of KPCC picked up Sabari instead of Sulekha. KPCC president V M Sudheeran officially announced the candidature of Sabari on Saturday and said that they picked him unanimously on merits. A Youth Congress leader told Tehelka that Sudheeran failed to explain on what merits Sabari has been handpicked other than being the son of G Karthikeyan. KSU state unit has given a dissent letter to KPCC president soon after the party decided on Sabari.
KPCC president rubbished the complaint, and in reply to KSU said that it is not a college election that is going to take place in Aruvikkara. Youth Congress leaders are also not in any mood to compromise on the decision. Youth Congress president Dean Kuriokose came against the decision and is unhappy with it. A Youth Congress leader on the condition of anonymity told Tehelka that the decision of the party betrayed youngsters and amounts to cheating. “If this is the situation, then there is no point in serving the party. This is a clear case of discrimination,” he said.
With the candidature been finalized, Congress is trying hard to establish an image of a former KSU leader for Sabari. He himself said that he was an active KSU worker during the time he studied at College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram. He along with other KSU workers had established a unit of the student’s wing inside the campus during 2003, which was once the bastion of SFI. However, the current leadership of the KSU says that they are aware of the fact.
Kerala not new to Family Politics
The candidature of K S Sabarinathan is in contradiction to the principles G Karthikeyan had stood for in his forty-year long political career. G Karthikeyan was one among the young turks who fought against K Karunakaran’s decision to rope in his son K Muraleedharan and daughter Padmaja as his political successors in the 1990’s. GK revolted against this along with many senior leaders including the current Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala. They were known then as reformists and GK hailed as the leader of the reformist movement within the Congress.
Family politics is nothing new in Kerala. If it was Karunakaran who was criticized for his deliberate efforts to pitch his daughter Padmaja and K Muralidharan in the 1990’s, many other leaders also have roped in their sons to the politics. Ministers like Anoop Jacob, son of Kerala Congress (J) leader T M Jacob; Shibu Baby John, son of RSP (B) leader Baby John; K P Mohanan, son of later Minister P R Kurup; Dr M K Muneer, son of late chief minister C H Mohammed Koya; P K Abdu Rabb, son of minister Avukkader Kutty; and MLA Ganesh Kumar, son of Kerala Congress (B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai; MP Jose K Mani, son of finance minister and Kerala Congress (M) leader K M Mani; A Sampath, son of CPM leader K Anirudhan are few from the long list of politicians of the state who have close family lineage.
Must win battle for UDF
The Congress that is riding on a wafer thin majority is reduced to 73 members in the 140-memebre Assembly after the death of G Karthikeyan . Moreover, the party has been rattled by the bar bribery scandal with two of its ministers, Finance Minister K M Mani and Excise minister K Babu, under the shadows. A Vigilance probe against Mani is on the final stages and a possible probe on K Babu is on the waiting. As Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said Aruvikkara by-election would be an assessment of political mandate on his government and he is well aware of that, only a win in Aruvikara can repair the already damaged image of his government that is already mired under innumerable corruption allegations. Congress is really hoping for a ‘son rise’ in Aruvikkara.