Lok Sabha Election: Congress loses little from Tom Vadakkan's exit to BJP as leader had no ground connect, nor fought polls

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front is seeking a mandate for stopping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Narendra Modi juggernaut in Kerala saying that if elected the Congress candidates could end up in the saffron camp.

The LDF began the campaign after senior Congress leader G Raman Nair joined the BJP in the midst of the Sangh Parivar struggle against the 28 September Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple.

Lok Sabha Election: Congress loses little from Tom Vadakkans exit to BJP as leader had no ground connect, nor fought polls

Former Congress leader Tom Vadakkan after he joined Bharatiya Janta Party, in New Delhi, Thursday, 14 March, 2019. PTI

The LDF propaganda got a boost with Congress media veteran Tom Vadakkan joining the saffron party on 14 March. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has led the campaign saying that the Congress is a recruiting agent for the BJP.

However, Congress considers Vadakkan, a close aide of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi as a demonetised currency whose exchange period expired long ago.

Just as he brings no asset value to the ruling party, except for a few brownie points to beat Congress with, Rahul’s party has lost virtually nothing by Vadakkan walking out. Although Vadakkan has been alien to electoral politics during the two decades that he was with the Congress, it was not by his own volition.

He always wanted to be in it, but party politics never let him come anywhere near contesting an election in his home state of Kerala. He was always considered as an ‘outsider’ by Kerala’s Congress leaders, who were themselves split into factions of various hues. He was, of course, an ‘insider’ in the Congress power corridors in Delhi, but with no outside influence, it mattered little in terms of clout. The result was that he belonged to neither power centres.

Vadakkan, a staunch Sonia loyalist, had managed to get the high command to superimpose his candidature for the Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala for the 2009 elections but faced stiff resistance from the local Congress leaders who objected to his lack of grassroots level connections as a big deterrent to success. In 2014, Vadakkan worked through the powerful Christian bishops to land a ticket but was again unsuccessful in the end. The 2019 election was perhaps his only chance, but it was certain that he would prove to be third time unlucky.

He was virtually pouring his heart out at the press conference with Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad when he said there was no place for ‘self-respecting’ people in the Congress party. “I gave my prime of life to the Congress. But dynastic politics is now at its zenith in the party... There's no place in it for self-respecting people," he lamented. He said he was a victim of the dynastic politics of Congress and its ‘use and throw’ culture.

While Vadakkan was drawing a blank in terms of electoral ambitions, the generation change in the Congress party ensured after Rahul Gandhi took over the mantle that he remained on the sidelines organisationally too. The Congress media unit was completely in the hands of Randeep Singh Surjewala and team and Vadakkan’s role was limited to holding ornamental positions under the Rahul Gandhi leadership.

So it was a matter of time that the Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi loyalist would get disenchanted with his situation. The Pulwama terror attack and the Congress party’s response to how the government handled it provided the right opportunity for him to make his exit, and give it an air of moral indignation. “It hurt me deeply when you question the integrity of the armed forces. At a time like this, it is not right to engage in such commentary. If a political party takes such a position that is against the country, then I'm left with no option but to leave the party,” he claimed.

It is believed that he may have received assurances of securing a BJP ticket from somewhere. It is no big deal for the saffron party in Kerala to give someone a seat to contest as there are no real stakes for the party, unlike the Congress-led UDF or the CPM led Left Front, for both of which each seat counts a lot. But state BJP president P S Sreedharan Pillai refused to commit himself on fielding Vadakkan as a candidate, although he joined the celebration of defection by a member of Sonia’s ‘Roman Catholic family’ with gusto.

Pillai said he was aware of Vadakkan crossing over but the state leadership had no role in the development. The BJP state president promised that more Congress leaders were in line to join the saffron party, which according to him suggests a positive turn in favour of the party in Kerala.

As expected, the state Congress leadership dismissed the Vadakkan episode as of no consequence whatsoever. “We have only seen Vadakkan on TV channels. In Kerala, he has had no space or role. His leaving is not going to affect us in any manner," commented Congress spokesperson Joseph Vazhakken.  His colleague PC Vishnunath, MLA, said he failed to understand the noise over Vadakkan joining the BJP.

“It is obvious that Congress does not lose anything due to Vadakkan’s departure; nor does it help the BJP improve its prospects in Kerala,” says political analyst Sunnykutty Abraham. But he points out in the same breath that it is a shot in the arm for the ruling Left Front, not because it will alter the electoral scene in any manner, but lends credence to the argument by the Marxists that any vote cast in favour of the Congress will turn out to be for the benefit of BJP.

The Kerala CPM plans to make a big noise over the BJP poaching into other parties, particularly Congress, insisting that there would be no point in voting for Congress candidates as many of them could end up joining the BJP at a later stage, depending on how the post-election scenario shapes up. The well-considered CPM line is to project a scenario where the mantle of stopping the BJP-Modi juggernaut in Kerala is solely on the Left Front as Congress neither has the stomach nor the will to fight BJP.

Tom Vadakkan, whose virulent attack against Modi that took up much air time before he switched sides, is the best bet for the Left Front to cast doubt on the credibility of Congress leaders in fighting Modi and the BJP. The promise by the state BJP chief of more defections in the days to come provides the Marxists with further ammunition in the Left Front assault against the Congress in Kerala, which is arguably its only rival, with BJP not expected to perform any miracle despite its best efforts to turn the Sabarimala issue into a pro-saffron wave.

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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 12:48:51 IST

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