Feud in Kerala Congress flares up



Thiruvananthapuram: As the rift between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala snowballed into a crisis in Congress, the high command's intervention appears inevitable to settle the discord arising from the confusion over inducting the party state unit chief in the cabinet.

Mid-rung leaders from factions loyal to the two leaders continued their slanging match today blaming each side for being responsible for the sudden flare-up in factionalism after the party-led government came to power in 2011.

Sources close to Chennithala said his supporters, known in party circles as "I" group, would meet in Kochi later today to work out strategies and take up their case with the central leadership.

State-level party functionaries backing Chennithala came out openly maintaining that not only did the KPCC chief deserve to be inducted in the cabinet with a key portfolio but he was even competent to replace Chandy as Chief Minister.

They feel Chandy 'humiliated' Chennithala by denying him a suitable portfolio after wooing him to join the ministry.

Senior leader and KPCC spokesperson M M Hassan, seen as a Chandy camper, told reporters that party issues had not yet become complex as projected by the media.

"It is wrong to say Congress in the state has split in the middle along group lines. There is no issue which cannot be settled through talks," he said.

He also suggested that both leaders should hold talks to resolve the issues as the situation had not yet slipped out of hand.

Groupism, a bane of the Congress in Kerala for decades, resurfaced recently after Chennithala's possibility of joining the UDF Ministry dimmed.

What added a serious dimension to the rumblings in the last few days was a newspaper interview in which Chennithala purportedly said it would be difficult for him to maintain the same smooth equation with Chandy since he felt he had been insulted over the ministerial issue.

Chennithala, however, had said he had not given any such interview though he did not altogether refuted its contents.

On his part, Chandy had made it clear he is not prepared for an open debate on internal issues and did not think that Chennithala would have said it would be difficult for him to continue the smooth relationship with the Chief Minister.

Significantly, Chennithala has been keeping silent since yesterday despite wrangling in the state unit dominating media debates for the last few days.

PTI