Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K Sudhakaran is facing a tough test in his home turf in Kannur over the expulsion of senior Congress leader Mambaram Divakaran from the party on Sunday.
Divakaran was a former KPCC executive committee member and general secretary of the Kannur District Congress Committee (DCC).
He was thrown out for fielding his own panel against the party candidates in the upcoming polls to elect 12 director board members to the Indira Gandhi Co-operative Hospital in Thalassery. The official list apparently has names suggested by Sudhakaran.
Thus the election turns out to be a fight between two senior leaders. Congress insiders believe that Divakaran, who has been serving as the hospital’s president for three decades, enjoys the support of a majority of 5,800 members (who have voting rights) and will trump Sudhakaran’s panel.
The cooperative hospital was launched in the 1980s under the tutelage of former Congress leaders in the district. Divakaran became its president in 1991 with the support of Sudhakaran. Under his leadership, the hospital has emerged as a prominent healthcare facility in Kannur district in the last three decades. The two leaders shared good rapport for a long time until they fell out a few years ago.
Recently, Divakaran rebutted Sudhakaran’s claim that he had assaulted Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during his college days.
Sudhakaran stated in an interview that he had knocked down Pinarayi Vijayan during an altercation while studying at the Government Brennen College in Thalassery. Sudhakaran was the leader of Kerala Students’ Union while Vijayan was a leader of the Kerala Students’ Federation (which was later renamed as Students’ Federation of India, SFI).
Vijayan said no such incident had happened at the College and everything was Sudharakaran’s ‘fantasy’.
Despite being a member of the Congress camp, Divakaran too spoke against Sudhakaran. He said he studied with Sudhakaran but he was not aware of such a fight.
The statement apparently had bruised Sudhakaran’s ego and heightened the rivalry between the two.
Subsequently, Sudhakaran issued veiled threats against Divakaran, stating that some Congress leaders controlled the co-operative institutions built using the party’s resources as their private fiefdom. He also said the party would tighten its grip over all Congress-run cooperative institutions.
Against this backdrop, when the election to the Indira Gandhi cooperative Hospital was announced, the District Congress Committee wanted to get some of its nominees elected to the director board.
The discussion between Divakaran and Congress leadership deadlocked over the nomination of one C T Sajith, believed to be a Sudhakaran loyalist and a former member of the Thalassery Municipal council. Divakaran alleged that Sajith had blocked the hospital’s development many times in the past and it was impossible to accommodate him in the panel.
Apart from expelling Divakaran, the KPCC suspended his loyalist and former DCC secretary E G Shantha, and removed Mambaram Mandalam Committee President K K Prasad on Sunday.
The political development ensures a tough political fight between the Congress panel consisting of party leaders and Divakaran’s panel comprising businesspersons and doctors.
Divakaran appears to be enjoying an edge thanks to his connection with the voters. But Congress leadership believes that party members will vote against him following his expulsion.
Divakaran said no one could throw him out of the Congress. “I went to the jail and underwent police torture all for the Congress party. So no one could dismiss me from the party,” he said.
Divkaran was sentenced to seven years in jail in connection with the murder of CPM worker and Dinesh Beedi worker K Ragahavan in 1979.
In 2016, he unsuccessfully contested against CPM candidate Pinarayi Vijayan from Dharmadam Assembly constituency.
A senior Congress leader in Kannur said on condition of anonymity that the cop-operative hospital election result will give a shock treatment to Sudhakaran. “Official Congress panel will lose the election. This may even change the group equations in the State Congress. I hope from now on Sudhakaran will refrain from taking disciplinary actions against senior leaders who enjoy good ground support,” he said.