At Congress Ghar Wapsi, Cherian Philip sees a red devil in CPM

It is official. Cherian Philip is back in Congress. Philip, who has been a CPM fellow traveller for the past 20 years after quitting the Congress in 2001, received the party membership from Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K Sudhakaran by paying Rs 5.

After joining the party, he unleashed a scathing attack on the CPM saying the Marxist party is ready to ally with any devil for electoral gains.

"If the Congress suffering from a cold due to weather change, then the CPM has been diagnosed with blood cancer," Philip said.

"I have been trying to study Marxism for the past 20 years. I couldn't learn much. I attended all the party study classes and asked my doubts to the ideologues there. Even they don't know anything. The party is ready to make friends with any devil," he said.

Philip, once a close confidant of Congress veterans A K Antony and Oommen Chandy, was accorded a rousing reception back to the party at its state office. Apart from Sudhakaran, top leaders of the party including V D Satheesan, Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala and K C Venugopal attended the meet.

Addressing the gathering, Sudhakaran said Philip's experience is a lesson to those who seek asylum in the CPM from other parties. Taking a jibe at former KPCC general secretary K P Anilkumar, Sudhakaran said, "a leader who has joined the CPM recently has been given the charge of one of the 167 branches of the CITU."

Anilkumar is among a section of Congress leaders who quit the party and joined CPM recently after Sudhakaran became the PCC chief and initiated an overhaul of the organisational structure.

The Congress sees Philip's induction into the party as a fitting reply to the CPM, which was quick to cash in on the crisis in the opposition party. Philip's induction has been only a matter of formality as he had made his mind clear in the past few days. All senior leaders of the Congress had also welcomed him back to the party even as when talk about his political move started doing the rounds.

Throughout the late eighties and nineties and till he left the Congress in 2001, Philip had a prime place in the party. Too close to A K Antony and Oommen Chandy, Philip, with his intellectual acumen and organisational skills, used to be a promising Congress leader.

He was largely responsible for the image building of Antony as an idealist and simple political leader, sources said. Philip played a big role in creating the 'Brand Antony' in Congress politics, much to the dislike of K Karunakaran, who headed the rival 'I' faction. Antony was the chief minister of Kerala thrice -- 1977, 1995 and in 2001.

Philip started his political career through the Congress' student wing and was the president of the Kerala Students Union ( KSU) in 1980. He later became a top leader in the Youth Congress and also in the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee.

He tested his electoral luck first in 1991 when he contested the Assembly polls from Kottayam constituency but lost to CPM stalwart T K Ramakrishnan.

Ten years later, in 2001, Philip hoped to get a chance to contest the assembly polls from a winnable constituency, known as a 'safe seat' in political parlance, but it did not happen.

He had demanded that he be given a safe seat in Thiruvananthapuram. But when the party did not accede to his demand, despite his close ties with Antony and Chandy, he decided to quit the party.

The CPM was quick to sense a political opportunity there and fielded him against Chandy in Puthuppally, the seat the Congress leader has been holding since 1970.

Though the electoral experiment failed, the CPM accommodated him at the party-backed channel Kairali TV. He used to anchor a social commentary programme in the channel. In 2006, Philip again unsuccessfully contested the assembly polls as a Left-backed candidate against Joseph M Puthussery from Kallooppara constituency. However, when the Left Front won the election and formed the government that year, he was given the plum post of the chairman of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.

In the 2011 polls, he was given another Assembly seat – Vattiyoorkavu -- but lost to K Muraleedharan, and he returned to the Kairali TV. That was his last electoral contest.

In 2016, when the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government assumed power, Philip was given a cabinet status post in one of his pet projects – the Nava Kerala Mission.

Since then there had been talk that Philip would be given a Rajya Sabha seat.

When vacancies to the Upper House of the Parliament came up in March this year, with the CPM sure to win two of them, it was almost certain that Philip would get one of them.

However, Vijayan at the last minute picked his closest aide John Brittas ( managing director of Kairali TV) and V Sivadasan, who was handling Vijayan's social media, as the Rajya Sabha candidates much to the disappointment of Philip.

After retaining power in the elections in April this year, the Pinarayi Vijayan government offered Philip the post of vice-chairman of the Kerala Khadi Board, which he turned down saying he was busy penning a book. Philip has already penned several books on history and politics.

Philip made his discontent with the CPM clear recently when he slammed the government over the handling of the floods.

After the torrential rains and landslides wreaked havoc in Kerala this year, Philip wrote on Facebook that, "those in power were definitely betraying the trust of the people by singing elegies and shedding tears at rehabilitation camps after not doing enough to provide solace to their problems.”

The message was loud and clear and the Congress latched on to the opportunity.

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