Analysis | Why Congress in Kerala is drawing a 'SilverLine' to bury its off-field bonhomie with rivals

Representational image
Representational image.

The Congress leadership's decision to bar three of its prominent leaders from attending an event to be organised by the CPM is an aberration from the inclusive and democratic political approach it used to practice.

The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee barred Shashi Tharoor, MP, and former Union minister K V Thomas from attending seminars to be held on the sidelines of the CPM's 23rd Party Congress slated to be held in the first week of April in Kannur.

Shashi Tharoor

Tharoor's attempt to surpass the order in the hope that the central leadership would not entertain PCC chief K Sudhakaran's gag order did not bear fruit as party president Sonia Gandhi backed the state leadership's stance.

This inadvertently prohibited senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Iyer's participation in the event.

The KPCC argues that the CPM does not deserve any sort of friendly gesture at a time when the main opposition party is engaged in a fierce protest against the Kerala government's anti-people policies, especially its aggressive push to implement the controversial SilverLine semi high-speed rail corridor project.

This kind of animosity to a rival political party is, however, something new to the Congress in Kerala. The party has a history of accepting invites from the Left parties to their functions and sharing the stage with them in good spirits of democracy.

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has been a guest of both the CPM and the CPI on more than one occasion.

Ramesh Chennithala.

There was no fuss then.

Chennithala, the leader of one of the two most prominent factions of the party until recently, attended the events, voiced his party's opinions there and returned.

n 2010, Chennithala was invited to a seminar held on the sidelines of the All India Democratic Women's Association's state conference. He was a speaker along with the then CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan on 'religious fanaticism and communalism.

Chennithala attended a seminar on Comprehensive Development of Kerala held as part of the CPI's 21st state conference in Kollam in 2012. He was the KPCC president then and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government was in power.

During the tenure of the previous Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, Chennithala, the then leader of the opposition, was one of the speakers at a seminar organised by the CPM about 'centre and state relations'.

CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran and late Kerala Congress(M) chief K M Mani also spoke at the event.

KM Mani.

Mani had attended the CPM's plenum in Palakkad in 2013 and the state meeting in Thrissur in 2018.

Both events triggered large-scale speculation as his Kerala Congress (M) had an uneasy relationship with the Congress at that time.

Though Mani remained a part of the Congress-led United Democratic Front until his death, barring a short period, his party quit the front after his death and joined the CPM-led Left Democratic Front.

“CPM has always invited political leaders who share diverse views to its platforms. When the party Congress was held in Hyderabad as well as Kolkata, state leaders of Congress had attended seminars held as part of the conferences,” CPM politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai remembered.


Congress's fear
Congress's fear about Tharoor or Thomas attending the CPM event stems from their recent political moves. The all-time 'pro-development' Tharoor had a soft corner to the SilverLine project until the KPCC issued a warning to him.

Article image Haritha

It is also a fact that Tharoor is not very happy with the functioning of his party either in the state or at the centre.

Thomas, a veteran leader, also has had a bitter relationship with the party leadership ever since he was denied the ticket to contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

His meetings with some top CPM leaders had triggered speculation on a probable entry to the Left fold.

The Congress in Kerala, battered by the CPM-led LDF's historic electoral win last year and a protracted faction feud, is in no shape to afford even an ounce of praise of the Left from its leaders, no matter how democratic and lofty it may sound.

A senior Congress leader, however, attributed the party's ban to Sudhakaran's Kannur lineage.

“Earlier, we used to have no issue about attending an event organised by the CPM. Sudhakaran may not want to entertain such political relations since he is from Kannur where the two parties are bitter rivals,” the leader said on condition of anonymity.

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