The youth brigade of the Congress in Kerala met the state leadership a few weeks ago with a demand for greater representation of younger faces on the party's candidate list for the local self-government bodies. Shafi Parambil and K S Sabarinathan were gunning for more than just the imminent polls. Veteran leaders such as KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy could see that the young legislators were actually setting the agenda for the assembly election next year.
The youngsters are well aware that any amount of representation won't work in the party unless they put their foot down. They had decided among themselves to be politely firm in their negotiations with the party leadership. After meeting the KPCC leaders, the young leaders have followed up their lobbying with the district leadership in various districts.
The move did not stem from a single day of deliberations within the Youth Congress state committee. This is a sentiment which has been growing within the Congress for some time now. They have transcended the traditional fault lines centered on the 'A' and 'I' camps within the party. Shafi Parambil, the president of the Youth Congress, belongs to the 'A' faction, while Sabarinath, a vice president, owes allegiance to the 'I' camp. That does not prevent them from putting up a united front to strengthen the party by infusing new blood.
The youngsters' strategy is well-motivated. A cloud of allegations faced by the ruling Left Democratic Front has brightened the hopes of opposition leaders to grab power next year. Many of the veterans are planning to test their luck again at the hustings despite losing even in 2011. They have formed groups to lobby for each other. These ambitious seniors include people who had been bestowed with top posts. Yet they do not want to give way to the next generation.
The younger Congress leaders wasted no effort to remind the leadership of the setback the United Democratic Front received in the assembly byelections of Konni and Vattiyoorkkavu. The CPM was able two wrest the two seats from the Congress by fielding able youngsters. The upsets helped the Left Democratic Front to eclipse its humiliating rout in the earlier Lok Sabha election.
The youngsters are not asking the leadership to ignore senior leaders or to balance between the dominant groups within the party. All they are asking is not to field them as candidates in the election. Seniority or group loyalty should not be a greater priority than winnability in an election. The party can safely distribute the loaves and fishes of office among senior leaders once it is back in power, they reason.
Senior leaders who have earned the love and trust of their communities should definitely be considered as candidates along with youngsters.
The state leadership, on its part, has been sympathetic to the demand of the younger generations. They have nipped in the bud the lobbying efforts by some Congress MPs to return to state politics and contest the assembly election. The party's candidate list for the local self-government bodies is refreshing for its youthful presence.
The spectacular performance of I C Balakrishnan, Anwar Sadath and P K Jayalakshmi in the local body elections of 2010 paved for their candidatures in the following assembly election. Jayalakshmi went on to become the youngest minister in the Oommen Chandy ministry.
In the Left camp, V K Prasanth's impressive record as the mayor of Thiruvananthapuram encouraged the CPM to field him as a candidate in the Congress fort of Vattiyoorkkavu. The strategy paid off and the party increased its tally in the state assembly.
The seats allotted to the Youth Congress could prove to be a training ground for winnable candidates in 2021 assembly election. They could even churn up minister material. Kerala politics cannot turn a blind eye to the emergence of the youth to powerful positions the world over.