Weeks after the Congress faced a crushing defeat in Kerala, the party today chose VD Satheesan as the new leader of opposition in a significant move. The party high command's decision to select the 56-year-old leader for the post signals a major shift in its functioning within the state.
VD Satheesan takes over from the 65-year-old Ramesh Chennithala.
Several parliamentarians, legislators and leaders of the Congress have demanded for an organisational revamp in the state and it was during the one-on-one meetings with the AICC representatives that VD Satheesan emerged as a frontrunner, even as there was also support for Ramesh Chennithala to continue among sections.
"The novel coronavirus pandemic is the biggest challenge before us. I assure people that we will work with the government to ensure every person is served better. It won't just be about two fronts at loggerheads. But we will use assembly and public space to point out government lapses, as a responsible Opposition," VD Satheesan told the media.
Ramesh Chennithala congratulated his successor in a tweet: "Hearty congratulations and best wishes to the new LoP in Kerala assembly VD Satheesan. @vdsatheesanI sincerely thank AICC president Sonia Gandhi for this decision (sic)."
Mr Chennithala had soon after the party's defeat in the state elections offered to step down from the post.
VD Satheesan was for long part of the Ramesh Chennithala faction in the Congress. But over the last two years, he worked towards moving away from factionalism.
Interestingly, former chief minister Oommen Chandy and many within his faction had even supported Ramesh Chennithala to continue as the Opposition Leader.
Oommen Chandy today welcomed the top leadership's decision.
VD Sateeshan is a five-time legislator and has so far lost only once- the first time he contested in 1996.
"VD Sateeshan is not part of any faction and represents the functioning and support of a lot of younger generation leaders in Congress, in Kerala," K Sudhakaran, Parliamentarian from Kannur, told the media.
This decision is a precursor to further organisational changes that will be expected in days to come, according to sources in the party.
On Thursday, Pinarayi Vijayan was sworn in as Kerala Chief Minister for a second time after guiding the CPM-led Left Democratic Front government to a historic second successive term in the April-May election. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) bucked the trend in the southern state that has seen a see-saw politics in the last four decades and has alternated between the Left and the United Democratic Front.
Pinarayi Vijayan is heading an all-new 21-member cabinet - including 12 from the CPM and four from the CPI - with no carry-over - apart from himself.
The alliance won 99 of 140 seats in this election, with the Congress-led UDF claiming 41 and the BJP failing to open its account.