Ex-Kerala Congress leader CR Mahesh's criticism of Rahul Gandhi reflects growing differences in party

The voice of junior leaders is seldom heard in most political parties. But an innocuous comment made by a minor functionary of the Congress party in Kerala in a social networking site has opened a floodgate of reactions.

Political commentators view the bouquets and brickbats received by CR Mahesh, vice-president of the state youth Congress, following his criticism of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi as a reflection of the growing differences in the party over the present state of the top leadership.

Mahesh unleashed the criticism against the Nehru-Gandhi scion on his Facebook page following the failure of the party high command to find a leader to head the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) even two weeks after the resignation of incumbent president VM Sudheeran and an upsurge in faction feud.

File image of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

File image of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

“Leaving the party headless at a time when it is facing a crucial by-election to the Lok Sabha is a serious lapse. If the leadership was sensitive to the feelings of the party workers, it should have appointed at least an ad-hoc president,” says Mahesh.

This has allowed the party’s rivals to gain an upper hand in Malappuram, where the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the second largest ally of the party, is fighting the by-election, after the death of E Ahmed. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has even declared the election as an evaluation of the 10-month-old party-led government in the state.

Mahesh told the Firstpost that the Congress, which should lead the poll campaign in the Muslim-dominated constituency, was in a state of stupor in the absence of the party chief. The delay in appointing the president has demoralised the workers and given rise to a fresh bout of factionalism in the party.

What irked him most is the party’s failure even to accept Sudheeran’s resignation. The party has been sitting over the resignation letter citing the absence of Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, who has gone abroad for treatment.

Curiously, the party high command began consultations on finding a successor to Sudheeran after the Youth Congress leader’s criticism hit the headlines. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, who was consulted by All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Mukul Wasnik on the issue on Wednesday, said that the state party will get a head within two-three days.

But Mahesh is not impressed. He feels that it will not be easy for the new leader to check the factionalism that reared its head in the wake of the setback the party suffered in the May 2016 Assembly election and has started crippling the party.

The Youth Congress leader pointed out that the street fights going on in connection with the ongoing organisational election to the party’s student wing — the Kerala Students Union — were the result of the faction war raging in the party.

“Group leaders have been recruiting members to their groups instead of the party and trying to capture the organisation in undemocratic manner. I don’t know how Rahul Gandhi, who tried to promote merit in the selection of leaders could allow this" asks Mahesh, who was appointed as Kollam district youth Congress chief through the talent search initiative of Rahul.

Mahesh, who blamed the faction feud for his defeat in the Karunagapally Assembly seat by a mere 1,759 votes, has viewed this as a serious lapse on the part of Rahul's leadership and has urged the leader to make way for others if he cannot lead the party. He also blamed Rahul for the setbacks the party suffered in the recent elections to the state assemblies.

"The BJP has been invading the Congress bastions throughout the country through its communal agenda. The Congress, which has the freedom movement and secularism as its strong legacies is watching silently. What the party now needs is a strong leadership to market these advantages," he added.

“Respected Rahul Gandhi, if you are not interested to take the lead, please make way, as this great entity that has roots all over the country is getting snapped,” Mahesh said adding that he was ready to die to see that the Indian National Congress stays alive in the country.

But the senior leaders appeared that they did not need his sacrifice. They denounced his action forcing him to quit the party. The Youth Congress national leadership too conveyed their disagreement to his criticism by suspending him from the party.

The Opposition leader has termed Mahesh's criticism of Rahul as a breach of the party discipline. He said that the party in the state was fully behind Rahul and there was no need to question his leadership at this juncture.

"Rahul is capable of leading the party. He was able to achieve success during hard times for the party," Chennithala said.

Former chief minister Oommen Chandy said that it was not correct to blame Rahul for the poll setbacks suffered by the party in the recent elections. He said that the BJP had snatched the victory from the Congress through undemocratic means.

Mahesh, who owes allegiance to Chennithala, said that he did not expect his leader to disown him. He said that he had aired his opinion in the social networking site with the hope that the party will take steps to save the party from further disintegration. A disappointed Mahesh announced his exit from not only the party but also politics.

"I am fed up with the politics of groupism. It is time for me to quit politics as the party that I represented for many years is in no mood to change or reform itself,” Mahesh said, announcing his decision to resign.

However, his supporters in the Congress and many well-wishers of the party have urged him to stay in the party. KL Mohanavarma, noted writer and former chief editor of Congress mouth piece Veekshanam said there was merit in the criticism aired by Mahesh.

He said that there were many like Mahesh in the Congress, who were disenchanted with the current state of affairs in the party. They will follow Mahesh if the leadership does not take steps to reform the party. The writer said that what the Congress needed at present was an effective leadership to face the challenge posed by the Sangh Parivar.

Political analyst NP Chekutty said that the people of the country were looking towards the Congress party to lead the fight against the communal forces that have tightened the grip over the politics in the country. Only the Congress has the mass base in the country to take on the BJP. Therefore, it is the need of the people to strengthen the party, he added.

Mahesh's supporters have hailed his criticism of the Nehru-Gandhi scion. "Only a person with courage can say the 'King is naked'. Mahesh has said this to the 'Congress king'. We will stand by him," said Balu Sreekrishna in a post on Mahesh's Facbook page.

Many like him have expressed solidarity with him repeating the idiom.


Published Date: Mar 23, 2017 02:11 pm | Updated Date: Mar 23, 2017 02:11 pm

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