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Kerala Congress turns 50

PTI | Last Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 13:20

Thiruvananthapuram: One of the oldest regional political formations, Kerala Congress (KC), has turned 50 with its various factions active players in the state`s coalition set-up despite their fractious nature which has seen them splitting into leader-centric outfits over the years.

The largest faction, Kerala Congress (M) led by state Finance Minister KM Mani, is celebrating the golden jubilee at the party`s epicentre Kottayam.

Now there are four KC factions -- KC (B) led by R Balakrishna Pillai, KC (Thomas) led by former union minister PC Thomas and KC (J) founded by late TM Jacob. KC(M), KC (J) and KC (B) are part of UDF, while KC (Thomas) is with LDF.

According to Mani, though a regional party, Kerala Congress has always stood for strengthening the federal system and has never encouraged the call for autonomy as had been done by some regional parties in other parts of the country.

At the same time, the KC was of the firm view that contented states were as important as a strong centre in a federal set up, Mani said in on the occasion.

A shrewd strategist and gifted debater with the distinction of having presented 11 budgets in the state, Mani dismissed the criticism that Kerala Congress has ceased to have relevance in the changed political context in the state.

Born out of intense factionalism in the Kerala unit of the Indian National Congress in 1964, in its initial phases KC drew its support mainly from the Christian and Nair communities in the Central Travancore region.

The party, at the time of formation, also took up several state-specific issues like a rational pricing policy for cash crops, enhanced institutional support for farmers and devolution of more funds from the Centre and was even seen as a threat to the Congress in the state.

But, later Nair Service Society (NSS) distanced itself from the Kerala Congress and the party found it tough to chart a course of its own without being part of either the Congress-led or CPI(M)-controlled coalitions.

Since mid-1970s, one or the other KC faction has been part of whichever coalition is in power.

A movement known for its tendency to "split as it grows", some political analysts hold that that opportunism and egoism of leaders have been the bane of the party, which once had the potential to emerge as a strong regional force within the framework of the country`s federalism.

According to Jacob George, political observer and journalist, the single most failure of KC had been the clash of interests of leaders, who place personal interest above idealism or the larger interests of the state.

"I believe that the relevance of KC has steadily been coming down. Though various KC factions have managed to remain as partners in the two coalitions, their leaders wasted the opportunity to position the party as a force to reckon with based on ideology, programmes and perspective," George said.

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First Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 13:20
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