Congress duo proves winning combination in Kerala

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM - As Kerala heads for assembly polls early next year, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) seems to have found a winning combination in two men, party sources say.

Former chief minister Oommen Chandy and state party chief Ramesh Chennithala have been able to steer a new course for the Congress, which was for long under the dominance of factions led by former chief ministers A.K. Antony, now a union minister, and K. Karunakaran.

The UDF last month staged one of its biggest victories in local bodies polls by winning two of the five corporations and edging out the ruling Left alliance in the municipalities, district, block and gram panchayats.

The victory has strengthened the hands of the Chandy-Chennithala duo.

N. Venugopal, a frontline leader of the faction formerly led by Karunakaran, was edged out of the mayor’s post in the Kochi corporation by a group of councillors loyal to the Chandy group. Venugopal has threatened to resign his councillor’s seat.

Likewise, when it came to selecting the leader of opposition in the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, the Chandy faction emerged successful.

In the past, it was usually Karunakaran who had the upper hand. But his reign came to a close soon after he was replaced by Antony as chief minister in 1995.

A group was formed with G. Karthikeyan and Chennithala leading it. Vayalar Ravi came up with a fourth group and from the mid-90s. For almost a decade, everything was shared among the four groups.

But things changed dramatically when Chandy replaced Antony as chief minister in 2004. The Karunakaran faction was virtually disbanded.

With the Congress-led UDF being decimated in the 2006 assembly polls, the message went out that factionalism would no more be tolerated.

The candidate finalisation for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls went off without any hue and cry from any of its leaders.

The Chandy-Chennithala combine got another shot in the arm when the Congress put up another excellent performance in the three assembly by-elections held last year.

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