The Kerala Congress on Thursday decided to give away its lone Rajya Sabha seat, being vacated by upper house deputy chairman PJ Kurien, to the Kerala Congress (Mani) amid an open revolt in its ranks.
The decision, aimed at placating the party’s political ally in the state, was announced by senior leaders in New Delhi after a meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi. State opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said it was a one-time arrangement to strengthen the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).
With this, the Kerala Congress (Mani) – a regional party mainly representing the Christian belt of central Kerala – is set to rejoin the UDF after two years. One of the oldest allies of the Congress, it had left the UDF after the 2016 assembly election.
Many senior leaders, including former Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief VM Sudheeran, PJ Kurien and Youth Congress state president Dean Kuriakose, termed the move as an “abject surrender” to a regional party. “The move is suicidal. How can the party sacrifice its own seat? I don’t think this will strengthen the UDF,” he said.
PCC secretary K Jayanth has quit his post in protest, and many young leaders have threatened to follow suit.
Eight young party legislators also expressed their displeasure in a missive to Gandhi. “Certain leaders hatched a conspiracy to gift the seat to Mani Congress. The move will only weaken the party,” said Kurien, adding that the high command was “misled” into giving its assent. He squarely blamed former chief minister Oommen Chandy and Chennithala for this “sorry state” of affairs.
Kurien had stated in a letter sent to the party president earlier in the day that while he was not in the running for the post, the seat should not be given to the Kerala Congress (Mani). He also suggested six names for the seat.
This has also upset the party’s young brigade, which had steadfastly opposed Kurien’s re-nomination. One such member said on the condition of anonymity that Mani had succeeded in “extracting his pound of flesh in style”.