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Thursday, May 30, 2013

NSS formally ends its relations with Congress

In a development of far reaching implications in Kerala politics, Nair Service Society (NSS),  organization of Nair community which is one of the prominent Hindu castes in Kerala today said it is formally severing its links with Congress.

NSS leadership had distanced itself from the Congress during the last few months. After G Sukumaran Nair became NSS general secretary NSS has clarified that it is no more an ally of Congress. But formal announcement came out after May 30 th leadership meet at Perunna. NSS used to support Congress traditionally and its founder Mannath Padmanabhan had lead the Liberation agitation against first Communist government in Kerala in 1958. Liberation agitation or Vimochana Samaram had cleared way for ascent of Congress government later.

Announcing new policy of NSS after May 30th leadership meet, general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said the organization would not have any relation with Congress hereafter and it does not want to have any discussion with state or central leadership of Congress to sort out its difference of opinion with Congress. “There is a popular notion that NSS has a pro-Congress stand but hereafter it will not have any relation to Congress,” said Nair. He said NSS does not believe in seeing Congress central leadership again for discussing its grievances.

He added that the stand of NSS in future would be issue based. NSS will support those who have favourably considers interests of Hindus in general, especially Nairs. Sukumaran Nair said NSS will take a decision on its support before next Lok Sabha elections considering policies of different political parties. He said the organization does not have any opposition to any particular political party including CPI (M).

Nair clarified that the new policy of NSS has been taken in the wake of failure of Congress Kerala leadership to honour an agreement reached between NSS and Congress high command that members of majority Hindus will be given positions of power in Kerala cabinet. In the present Kerala cabinet, key ministries in state cabinet and almost 70 per cent of government positions are being occupied by representatives of minority communities, he said.

According to Sukumaran Nair, the unity between NSS and SNDP, organization of Ezhava  community in the state is strong and will continue. Nair said these organizations have not taken a decision on common political stand. But there is possibility for such a common stand, he added. Nairs and Ezhavas together constitute 80 per cent of Hindu population in Kerala.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Analyzing Ramesh Chennithala-Ommen Chandy rift in the light of opinions of NSS and SNDP

Congress group war in Kerala with KPCC president on one side and chief minister on the other side during party rule is nothing new. Rather it is the norm in Congress from 1962 onward when CK Govindan Nair fought with R Sankar. Later A K Antony fought with K Karunakaran. However fight between present KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala and CM Oommen Chandy is different. This is because while earlier infighting in Congress was basically factionalism linked to loyalty to individuals, in the current in fight issues related to representation of various religions in the cabinet play the key role.

Their cold war in Congress Kerala unit erupted as open fight yesterday (May 22) when Chennithala in an interview to Indian Express said Chandy can now have his own way. Though he denied having given an official interview later, the issue remains and it is likely that only Congress high command can bring both leaders together now.

Reasons for current infighting

The main issue in Congress at present is imbalances in power sharing among party leaders belonging to Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The present fight for key positions in Congress has its roots in a power struggle which began in Congress Kerala unit around two decades ago in which communal forces also played a key role. As a result of that fight, in1992, K Karunakaran was forced to resign as Kerala chief minister. There had been allegations that majority community had been sidelined following Karunakaran’s resignation. After Karunakaran, both chief ministers of Congress A.K Antony and Oommen Chandy have been from Christian community.

Recently Major Hindu organizations in Kerala Nair Service Society (NSS) and SNDP yogam of Ezhava Community had publicized their opinion that minority communities (Read Muslims and Christians) are controlling power in the state and Majority Community has been sidelined. Afterwards, they said they had bargained for a key post for Ramesh Chennithala in Kerala ministry before election. They added that Oommen Chandy had violated an agreement they made with Congress central leadership that Ramesh will be given a key post.

It was in this backdrop that leaders owing allegiance to Chandy recently met Chennithala and expressed Chandy’s willingness to include Chennithala in the cabinet. However this seemed to be a clever move with Chennithala being lured to take an unimportant portfolio. While those who support Chennithala demand that he be given an important portfolio like Home in the ministry, Oommen Chandy seems to be strictly against it. Chandy had divested home portfolio which he was holding a few months back and had appointed his confidante Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan as home minister.

Chennithala’s dilemma
It seems that Chennithala has realized that if he goes for an unimportant position in ministry he will later lose all clout, similar to what happened to former KPCC president K Muraleedharan. Muraleedharan resigned KPCC president post and contested in election when he was offered power minister post. However he couldn’t even win election then as a section of Congress leaders rigged his campaign. Now he is just an MLA. Chennithala has realized that the same may apply to him also and stated that he will continue as KPCC president which will force Congress leadership to intervene.

Even though NSS and SNDP supported Chennithala, the latter distanced from them publicly. This could have been Chennithala’s own strategy for a secular image or he might have been forced to do so by his opponents in party. Anyway, it means now he doesn’t have support of community. Now his opponents can handle him easily.

Those Congressmen who ditched Karunakaran earlier are now playing the same game at Chennithala also. They will up the pressure using community and media to put all blame on Chennithala for any setback of Congress and ensure that he won’t get any position of importance in future. Attitude of his opponents show they are not even willing to make him number two. Chennithala’s future depends on his own fighting skills and ability to force high command to intervene and give him home portfolio. Anything less will be a defeat for him.

Consequences of Congress group fight
While earlier Congress groups used to declare cease fire in faction wars when high command intervened, now even if leaders end fight cadres and sympathizers won’t. The Pandora’s box has already been opened. Meanwhile NSS leadership after directly attacking Chandy for the plight of Congress said they don’t have any love lost for Chennithala too. If NSS and SNDP stick to their opinion that they won’t have any relation to Congress in the coming days, then Chennithala’s crisis in Congress plus NSS and SNDP stand would further alienate majority community from Congress. It is likely that Congress will feel the impact in coming Lok Sabha election.

Middle level leaders of Congress belonging to Hindu community are likely to complain of neglect. Example of Karunakaran would force many to accept this view. While it is unlikely that those who distance from Congress leadership may vote for CPM, one cannot dismiss possibility of their coming close to BJP if BJP works properly among them.