After the swearing in of the new Pinarayi Vijayan ministry, attention has now shifted to the Congress camp, where intense lobbying is going on for the post of the new Leader of Opposition.
There is much confusion over the decision, with the Congress high command unable to come to a decision even as there is bitter fight between outgoing opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and new aspirant VD Satheeshan.
Satheeshan’s camp claims that he enjoys the support of the majority of MLAs, while Chennithala, backed by the faction led by him, is not prepared to give way without a fight.
The high command had deputed a team of observers to hold discussions with the newly elected Congress MLAs, which has submitted its report to Sonia Gandhi. But she is unable to make up her mind as the camps supporting the rival candidates are continuing to mount pressure.
The performance of Ramesh Chennithala as the opposition leader had come in for all-round praise as he was responsible for forcing the Pinarayi government to go back on several controversial decisions, including the cancellation of the contract with the US-based Sprinklr company for processing data relating to Covid patients in the state.
The deal was cancelled after the courts expressed fears over the possible compromise of privacy of the health data by the company for the use of pharmaceutical companies.
Chennithala was also the one who exposed the controversial deal by the government during the last days of the first Pinarayi Vijayan government with another US company for deep sea fishing, which was against the declared fisheries policy of the government.
But there is a feeling that all his campaigns could not yield the intended result, as the Pinarayi Vijayan government was swept back to power with a historic second tenure, while the Congress could not even protect its seats in the outgoing assembly.
The observers reported back to the high command, indicating the preference for a change in the opposition leader as the majority of new MLAs felt that the electoral performance of the party puts a question mark on Chennithala’s credibility and that only a new leadership can revive the party’s fortunes.
But several senior leaders, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy, who incidentally heads the other main faction in the state Congress, have come out in favour of Chennithala, saying that his continued presence in the leadership is vital for the revival of the party.
These leaders have impressed upon both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on the need to persist with Ramesh Chennithala and this is what is causing confusion to the high command.
It is learnt that both sides have been told that if the leadership is unable to choose between the two, a third name may be an option. And this would mean further delay.
A section of the party feels that the change cannot be restricted to the leader of opposition, but the entire state leadership, including the KPCC chief, needs a complete recast with the infusion of young blood if the party has any chance of regaining its lost glory.