New Delhi: The Congress in Kerala is facing a revolt after giving up a Rajya Sabha seat to the Kerala Congress (Mani), a regional ally that had left it two years ago amid a rift over a corruption scam.
- Congress in Kerala gives up Rajya Sabha seat
- Kerala Congress (Mani) takes the seat
- Kerala Congress (Mani) had left it two years ago amid a rift
The decision means Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien will not get another term. But for the Congress, which wants to win over as many allies as it can ahead of the 2019 general election, it is collateral damage.
Several party leaders, including young legislators and a former state Congress chief, have strongly objected to the party's decision.
"This is truly disappointing, not only for me and fellow MLAs but also party workers on the ground. They feel this is an insult to their spirit. The decision was taken by some Kerala leaders at the top without a discussion in any party forum. The seat has gone to another political party which is not even a part of the Congress in Kerala right now. Kerala Congress (M) aligned with the CPM in the Kottayam local body and also attended the CPM plenary session," Congress lawmaker VT Balram told NDTV.
Despite being being asked repeatedly about the dissent, opposition leader and state Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala didn't respond to NDTV.
"This is an abject surrender by the Congress," Mr Kurien has reportedly said, blaming senior party leaders and accusing them of misleading Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Ramesh Chennithala, former chief minister Oommen Chandy and others met Rahul Gandhi and suggested giving Mr Kurien's seat to Kerala Congress (M), as a step to bring them back to the Congress-led UDF.
"It is a one-time arrangement," Mr Chennithala has reportedly said.
The Congress has been facing a tussle over the seat for weeks. Younger lawmakers had posted on social media that Mr Kurien, a veteran Congress leader who has been Rajya Sabha deputy chairman since August 2012, should step aside.
A young lawmaker, Hibi Eden, posted on Facebook that the party must not treat the Rajya Sabha as an "old age home" and another said 77-year-old Mr Kurien should "take this opportunity to wisely to withdraw from Parliamentary politics".
Mr Kurien did not hide his dismay, posting: "Why are the young MLAs attacking me... Should you insult the elderly by calling them 'aged'?". He also questioned if getting old was a crime and whether the young lawmakers, all of whom were no older than 28, treated elders at their home the same way.
Three Rajya Sabha seats in Kerala, including the one held by Mr Kurien, will fall vacant on July 1.
When it became clear that he would not be renominated to the Rajya Sabha, Mr Kurien is said to have written to Rahul Gandhi suggesting that if not him, the party should nominate another Congress leader for the seat. He is said to have suggested the names of six leaders.