PC Chacko Quits, Exposing Gulf Between Kerala and Delhi Congress
Veteran Congress leader PC Chacko has accused the party’s Kerala unit of groupism.
Veteran Congress leader PC Chacko resigned from the party on Wednesday, 10 March as he was denied a stake in the Kerala assembly elections scheduled for 6 April, sources within the Congress told The Quint. Chacko wanted an active role in election-related decision making in Kerala, which the party’s state leadership was not ready to offer him.
Given his stature, why would Chacko, the All India Congress Committee’s New Delhi in-charge, be denied a say in Kerala?
The sudden resignation of the veteran leader is indicative of the widening gulf between the national leadership of the Grand Old Party and its state leadership in God’s Own Country.
Congress’ State-Centre Relations
In a press conference that he addressed, Chacko accused the Congress state leadership of “groupism”. The Congress in Kerala is divided into two groups, Congress (A) and (I) headed by former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and the state’s opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala respectively, Chacko rued.
Meaning, “deserving candidates” recommended by Chacko were not considered by the Congress’ state leadership while arriving at their election list. Chacko has been a Congress leader for over four decades. He was inducted into the party through the Kerala Students Union (KSU). He was first elected to Kerala’s Legislative Assembly in 1980 and the Lok Sabha in 1991. He went on to become a Congress Lok Sabha MP three more times.
Ironically, The Quint has gathered that Chacko’s disgruntlement is shared by some other national leaders of the Congress party.
“Several people recommended by some of us were not considered. These were deserving candidates. Only those who have their connections with senior state leadership have ended up as candidates,” a national leader of the Congress rued. Chacko’s concerns are not dissimilar to those raised by Gulam Nabi Azad,, the leader said. The Congress has not yet released its list of candidates for state Assembly polls.
Does the Congress in Kerala, which according to ABP-C-Voter survey is expected to lose to the Left Democratic Front, work independently of its national leadership?
Another Congress leader said that “the national leadership is consulted” only when it comes to matters which the state unit cannot deal with. The ground level decisions are taken by the state leadership. In Kerala both Chandy and Chennithala have the requisite high stature when it comes to such decision making. In February, the latter had started a tour of the state to kick-start the Congress’ election campaign.
A question remains. Why did Chacko wait for the eleventh hour to quit?
‘Chacko Has No Say In Kerala’
A state Congress leader, speaking to The Quint on condition of anonymity, says that PC Chacko has not been in touch with the state leadership as much as he should have. “He has no say beyond Delhi. In Kerala he has no support,” the leader said.
Another leader asked, “Where is the outrage from Kerala? Even local level leaders of the Congress are silent after he quit because he has no say there”. Meaning, Chacko’s suggestions related to the election campaign was deliberately not taken because the state leadership does not consider him a competent political player in Kerala.
In Delhi too, the veteran leader had lost his stature, a national leader of the Congress said. “His performance as AICC in-charge of Delhi was not satisfactory. He was not able to take on the Aam Aadmi Party,” he said. The party High Command had communicated its dissatisfaction with his performance to him, the leader said.
Did Chacko want to move and set up a base in Kerala?
“He was always a national leader. He would never have moved to Kerala, but he may have wanted to be respected in the state. That was not to be,” said a leader in the know of Congress’ election plans in Kerala. It is not clear which candidates recommended by Chacko were dismissed by the party’s state leadership.
The move has, however, brought some cheer to Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the BJP, who are in the fray with Congress.
Congress Stands Exposed
Chacko’s criticism of the Congress’ state leadership and the party’s high command, seems to have exposed the weakness of the party in the state where elections are due in three weeks.
“Chacko’s stature or his influence in Kerala is only secondary. This episode has exposed the fact that Congress is not a united front. It has exposed the infighting in the party,” a source in the Congress’ Kerala unit told The Quint. Chacko’s resignation should not have come right before an Assembly election, he added.
Another Congress leader from Kerala told The Quint that the state leadership of the party should not be criticised beyond a point. “After all, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the state leadership delivered results and the party did well,” he said. That year the United Democratic Front (UDF) led by the Congress, won 19 out of 20 seats in Kerala.
The veteran leader’s resignation has also exposed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s loosening grip on the party's national leaders, the leader said. “So far there have been no defections in Kerala because the Congress party in the state is strong. However, at the national level Rahul Gandhi has not been able to satisfy the demands of its national leaders,” he added.
Could Chacko's dramatic exit hurt the Congress? Unlikely.
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