THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Days after state Congress chief V M Sudheeran quit the post, the one prominent name to succeed him is of Oommen Chandy, though the former Chief Minister has said he is not interested. Even UDF allies are pushing for Chandy. The question of a successor to Sudheeran, who quit suddenly on Friday, has been dominating political circles, and also discussed animatedly in the canteen of the Kerala Legislative assembly.
The choice of Chandy is backed by majority in the Congress party as well as its allies. Most cite the example of the victory of Amarinder Singh in Punjab, where the national leadership of the Congress party did not have much say.
Ever since Sudheeran decided to put in his papers on Friday, the telephone of Chandy has not stopped ringing, with callers urging him to take up the post of president and that it will help strengthen the party. What has come as a surprise is that even leaders and party workers of Kerala Congress (Mani), led by former Finance Minister K.M. Mani, a long standing ally of the Congress-led UDF which severed ties with the alliance last year, too wants Chandy to take over as party state unit chief.
"If such a thing happens, then don't be surprised, as Mani in all likelihood will return to the UDF fold," a top party source in the know of things told IANS. IUML - the second biggest ally in the United Democratic Front - is also batting for Chandy.
"We have a crucial Lok Sabha by-elections in Malappuram next month (the seat became vacant following the death of former Union Minister and League leader E. Ahamed). Even though none has any doubts on the outcome of the poll, it's going to be a test for the governance of the 10-month-old Pinarayi Vijayan government and it's here where Chandy has a job to do if he takes over as president. It will be a major boost for the election campaign for the Malappuram Lok Sabha seat," said a League leader.
Ahamed in each of the past three Lok Sabha polls has been increasing his margin of victory by about 50,000 votes, and in the 2014 polls his margin had jumped to 1,94,739 votes. Chandy, however, has made it clear that he is not in the running for the post of president. But in a positive development, while earlier he had categorically ruled out taking over, he now says that the decision of new president would be taken by the party high command.
Chandy, who has been a legislator since the 1970s, has occupied the Chief Minister's chair twice. He has also remained a hugely successful UDF convenor, but he is yet to get any post in the party organisation. Many feel that this is the right time for Chandy to step in and use his five decades of being a Congressman, to inject much-needed adrenalin to rev up the party at all levels. This is needed as the state unit of the BJP is pumped up after its electoral successes, especially in sweeping Uttar Pradesh.