On Sunday, Congress registered one of the biggest victories in a cooperative society election in Kannur.
All the 12 party candidates were elected to the director board of the Indira Gandhi Cooperative Hospital in Mambaram, trumping the rival panel headed by expelled Congress leader Mambaram Divakaran.
Besides, it was a huge political victory for Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president (KPCC) K Sudhakaran on his home turf.
With the win, Sudhakaran sent out a strong message to the disgruntled leaders that they are not above the party and all of them should abide by certain rules and regulations.
Divakaran, who led the defeated panel, was Sudhakaran’s close ally for many years. He first became the president of the Indira Gandhi Cooperative Hospital when Sudhkaran was heading the party’s Kannur district unit. But the two fell out a few years ago and the rivalry intensified after Sudhakaran became the party’s state chief. What angered Divakaran was his omission from the KPCC’s executive committee. He believed that Sudhakaran had orchestrated the move against him.
Divakaran, however, retained a firm grip over the hospital administration. He ruled it for close to three decades, transforming it into a high profit-making cooperative entity under Congress in Kannur.
But the party wanted to end Divakaran’s stranglehold in the hospital’s affairs. When the election was announced, it asked Divakaran to include some of its nominees to the director board. He turned down the demand and fielded his own panel. This resulted in Divakaran’s expulsion from the party in the last week of November. Congress fielded its own panel, setting the stage for one of the biggest cooperative electoral tests.
It was a prestigious election for Congress. A defeat would have been interpreted as a loss for Sudhakaran on his home turf. On the polling day, all the top party leaders descended at the booth and wooed 1,732 voters - mostly Congress workers and sympathisers - who turned up.
The strategy won huge dividends with the party candidates sweeping all the 12 director board positions up for grabs.
Political analysts said the victory apparently would embolden Sudhakaran’s attempt to bring inner-party discipline. They said his first reaction to the poll win - that no one was above party - meant that he would firmly continue his efforts to turn Congress into a semi-cadre party.
Congress leaders said the victory would help Sudhakaran nip dissidence in the party. “I think Sudhakaran would replicate this model (that he used to tame a powerful dissident leader like Divakaran) in the state Congress. So this is a clarion call for party leaders to end dissidence and work for the party's growth,” said a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity.