Muslim League national general secretary P K Kunhalikutty had a political mission on the eve of Tuesday’s key meeting of the Congress-led United Democratic Front. Kunhalikutty met with opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran to send out a clear message to the bigger ally plagued with internal schism related to a meeting of the political affairs committee.
Kunhalikutty told the Congress leaders that the Muslim League had no interest in the internal affairs of another party but the Congress, as the leader of the alliance, was giving out the wrong signals. He stuck to his stand on Tuesday’s UDF meeting.
“We have proved to ourselves that we could win the Lok Sabha election and lose assembly byelections in the same year. We have to proceed with seriousness and efficiency if we were to win in future battles. The Congress has to live up to its responsibility,” he told the other leaders of the opposition alliance.
The intervention by the Muslim League forced Congress state president Mullappally Ramachandran to take a defensive stance in the UDF meeting. He insisted that nothing out of the limits was happening in his party.
The Muslim League initiative was not taken lightly by a section of Congress leaders. Why would someone worry about differences of opinions in the Congress while another ally, the Kerala Congress, was splintered. Some Congress leaders stopped short of challenging the Muslim League by reminding the party of locking down a youth leader after elections in the student wing, the Muslim Students’ Federation. The party had to appoint an investigating commission to probe the incident.
However, most of the leaders took the Muslim League’s concerns in the right spirit, as an attempt to revitalise the Congress and the UDF.
What happened in the Congress
The issues raised in the controversial meeting of the political affairs committee of the Congress were similar to the points raised by the Muslim League in the alliance meeting. The Congress meeting saw heated debates over the necessity to act in unison and efficiency to win in the assembly election next year.
Most vocal was V D Satheesan but none of the leaders thought the speech was driven by personal grudges. However, Satheesan’s spat with Mullappally over the modes of agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was probably projected to his speech.
Mullappally had asked Satheesan to work with him as a working president of the Congress in the state. Yet the Congress state president surprised Satheesan, an MLA, when he insisted that elected representatives should stay away from being the office-bearers of the party. Mullappally was calm in the face of protests.
Everything changed when the news of the differences was leaked out to the frontpages the next day. He burst out in the party headquarters in the presence of senior leader A K Antony. He accused his detractors of going to the media to tarnish his image and offered to resign as the party’s state president.
It was in this backdrop that Mullappaly refused to convene a meeting of the political affairs committee without clear instructions from the party high command. The high command formed a political affairs committee following complaints from party MPs that they were not adequately represented in the decision-making bodies of the party. Even Mullappally batted for such a forum as the party’s chief in Kerala. The forum came to be a cross-section of the party’s leadership in Kerala.
Either group within the party is expected to speak out against the political affairs committee. The inimical factions have sought to brush aside Mullappally’s remarks as emotionally driven.
In fact, the Muslim League’s concerns are deep-rooted than the routine outbursts within the ranks of his partner. The Muslim League wants the Congress to be more organised and united at a time when chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan leads the agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the CPM and the Left Democratic Front. Whatever happens, the Muslim League is not interested to continue in the opposition for another five years.