Fireworks fly as Congress struggles to reconcile with rout in Kerala civic polls

Thiruvananthapuram: The rout in the local body elections has set off fireworks within Congress as well as the United Democratic Front (UDF), with a number of leaders accusing the party leadership of a clear disconnect with people and calling for a complete revamp of the party apparatus.

K Sudhakaran, Rajmohan Unnithan and K Muraleedharan demanded that all the leaders of district units must be changed forthwith, while also raising the heat for a change of leadership at the top, including state party president Mullappally Ramachandran and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala.

UDF constituents, including Indian Union Muslim League and RSP, also blamed the internal squabbles in Congress for the poor performance of front candidates. To regain people’s confidence for the coming assembly elections, Congress has to sort out its problems first, a meeting of IUML held to review the election results concluded. Groupism, which has been a bane of the party’s functioning in Kerala, was blamed for poor selection of candidates and there have been allegations that party tickets were even sold while the party apparatus failed to provide financial support to cash-strapped candidates.

The district party units in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Idukki were particularly targeted for criticism. Considered traditional bastions of the party, these districts saw the ruling LDF make a virtual sweep in all the three levels of local bodies, which came as a rude shock to both Congress as well as the UDF.

The party has not been able to reconcile to the loss of Pathanamthitta, which was until now an impregnable fort of the UDF. Congress was so strong in the district that it could so far cobble a majority in any local body on its own strength.

While it is true that the change of sides by the Kerala Congress faction led by Jose K Mani helped LDF to consolidate its position in the district, it is widely believed that the real reason lay elsewhere. All the five MLAs in the former Congress fortress are today held by LDF.

It is pointed out that the total whitewash in the district is even beyond the expectations of the LDF, which is an indication of the depth to which both Congress and UDF have fallen.

A controversial hook-up with the Welfare Party, an outfit of Muslim fundamental elements, by Congress in the north was widely interpreted as compromising the secular credentials of the party. The state leadership was vertically split on the issue, with the state party chief and others asserting that the party had no truck with the Welfare party. The controversy continued to the last day of polling and the LDF exploited the link-up to the tilt throughout the state.

While a section of the state party has become highly critical of the party leadership, the high command is leant to be standing by Mullappally and Chennithala.

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