This week must be something the Congress in Kerala wishes it could erase from the calendar. Not one or two, but three videos being circulated on the all pervasive social media have left the opposition party in the state with egg on its face.
Worse is the fact two of those videos have the party’s top leaders playing out their ego and ignorance while the third one puts none other than A K Antony, still one of the key leaders of Congress at the national level, in an embarrassing situation.
The all-damaging footage relating to three different incidents have drained the party off a significant amount of perception points it had managed to win with an impressive show in the Puthuppally bypoll, where Chandy Oommen won by a record margin.
The Congress’ video jinx started earlier this week as a footage from the post-bye-election press meet called by the Congress in its Kottayam district office started doing the rounds on social media. The visuals show Leader of the Opposition V D Satheesan and Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K Sudhakaran fighting over who should speak first to the media. The visuals show Satheesan initially refusing Sudhakaran to start the presser and then reluctantly leaving the channel mikes to the latter. Sudhakaran can be seen making his claim for the mikes flaunting his role as the KPCC president.
Satheesan, in what was interpreted by his critics as a sheer show of ego and pettiness, remained sulking throughout the media meet and refused to speak saying “president has already spoken everything”. Another footage from the same event showing Satheesan refusing to help Sudhakaran answer a question in English also went viral, earning more bad name for the opposition leader, otherwise known for his solid stances and debating skills in the assembly. “The question is to you, you answer it,” Satheesan is heard telling Sudhakaran.
Immediately after TV channels aired the viral visuals from the press meet, Satheesan tried to do some damage control by giving the incident a spin which even his party followers could not buy. Satheesan’s defence was that he tried to stop Sudhakaran as the PCC chief had told him that he was going to tell the press that the opposition leader deserved full credit for the Puthuppally win.
“Of course, the video is embarrassing and it exposed the ego clash between Satheesan and Sudhakaran. However, it is wrong to assume that there is some friction between them. There’s nothing like that and the two are in good terms even now,” a young Congress leader from Ernakulam told Onmanorama when asked about the feeling within the party over the incident. He said Satheesan’s explanation only added to the damage already caused.
“It just went out of the hands,” a senior leader from Kottayam said, refusing to comment further on the video row.
Prayer and politics
When it looked like the ‘Satheesan vs Sudhakaran’ row had its viral life and it had almost faded, another video surfaced in the form of a testimony of god’s blessings. In the video, Congress Working Committee member A K Antony’s wife Elizabeth Antony speaks about her elder son Anil Antony’s decision to quit Congress and join BJP. She is heard thanking St Mary for helping her son stay in politics by joining the BJP.
“When the BBC documentary controversy erupted, it looked everything went out of our hands. My son’s biggest dream is to be in politics. I prayed to Mother Mary that I was being helpless. Then he called me and said he had received a call from the Prime Minister’s Office and was asked to join BJP. Our family had lived in the Congress and it was unthinkable for us to shift to the BJP. I prayed to Mother Mary again through Fr V P Joseph. He told me there was no need to call my son back and that he has a great future in BJP. St Mary changed all my disgust and hatred towards BJP and prepared me to accept his decision,” Elizabeth says in the video released by a Christian spiritual centre. She also thanks St Mary for making Antony accept Anil’s decision.
True, it’s a mother’s prayer for her son and family and one doesn’t have any right to make a judgement on it. But those in politics often cannot expect such mercy from rivals, especially on social media. As expected, the Antony family was once again subjected to cyber ridicule. Even Congress supporters also called out the ‘testimony’ saying it just trivialised Anil’s political backstabbing.
Elizabeth invited more trouble for the Congress by adding that Antony regained his self confidence after she prayed for her ‘atheist’ husband. She also thanked St Mary for Antony’s retention in the Congress Working Committee.
Sudhakaran does a Jayarajan
The Congress embarrassment did not stop with the presser and prayer videos. When it looked like the ‘viral week’ has finally come to an end, it was Sudhakaran’s turn again. On Sunday, the PCC president made a major goof-up by revealing his ignorance while offering condolences to legendary Malayalam filmmaker K G George. As channel reporters wielded their mikes asking him for a comment on the death of K G George, Sudhakaran simply switched to the usual condolences template. “We have a lot to remember about him. He was a good politician and social worker,” the Congress leader said.
Truth is George’s only known connection with politics is that he directed ‘Panchavady palam’ one of the sharpest political satires in Malayalam cinema.
Sudhakaran’s wrong condolences is already viral. The Congress, however, can find solace in one thing. The CPM trolls have to be a little cautious this time. Their leader E P Jayarajan, another Kannur strongman in Kerala politics, had made the same mistake seven years ago. He had offered condolences to the great boxer Muhammad Ali, identifying him as a pride of Kerala. “Ali was a prominent personality in Kerala's sports scenario. He had won several gold medals for Kerala and had taken our state's fame skyhigh,” he told a TV channel in 2016 when he was the state sports minister. Later, he corrected the mistake and blamed the TV channel for not briefing him properly. Sudhakaran can now follow his arch-rival Jayarajan and pass the blame.
Sudhakaran also rectified his mistake soon after he realised it. He said he got the filmmaker confused with a former colleague of same name. He said the media did not brief him when they sought his comment.
However, he admitted that he should have sought clarity from them. He remembered George as a filmmaker who occupies his own space in Malayalam cinema.