Just a day before the counting of the crucial elections in five states including UP and Punjab, the Congress in Kerala was shaken by the surprise resignation of state president VM Sudheeran. The leader, known for his clean image, cited health reasons for his exit and said that his decision had nothing to do with factional politics in the party. 

 

Political observers have come up with other possible reasons for the surprise move. At the back of their mind, the leader of the major groups in the party- the I-faction led by Ramesh Chennithala and A-group led by Oommen Chandy- must be happy with the exit of their common enemy. But by relinquishing top party post, Sudheeran emerges once again as an epitome of idealism and a real force to reckon with. His next moves and open criticism of factions in the party could be louder than ever and a worry for both Chandy and Chennithala.  

 

However, the party as a whole and the workers in general, are a confused lot in Kerala after the surprise resignation, leaving everybody to guess who would be the next at the helm of affairs. The I-A factions would be hoping for a consensus candidate. The surge of BJP in UP and a weaker High Command will further affect the faction-ridden party in Kerala. 

 

Finding a replacement for Sudheeran will once again ruffle feathers in the grand old party. The Congress high command, already distraught by the embarrassing show in UP and Uttarakhand, will not be in a position to impose its decision arbitrarily on Kerala leaders as it did in 2014 when it appointed Sudheeran as KPCC chief, much to the chagrin of Oommen Chandy, who was the Chief Minister then.  

 

"Consensus is needed before posting even if it is an interim state president," says K Sudhakaran, a senior leader of the party. The statement is, in fact, a message to the High Command that the party factions in the state will not entertain air-dropped leaders anymore. 

 

Sudheeran's resignation has left the partners in the Congress-led UDF in Kerala also in confusion. "It is an internal matter of the Congress. However, we cannot deny the political reality that the surprise move has created a lot of confusion in the front," said Sheikh P Harris, the state general secretary of Janata Dal (U), a constituent of the UDF. Muslim League, one of the long-time partner of the Congress in  Kerala is also not feeling good at the goings on in the Congress. It had rallied behind Sudheeran when he took a strong position regarding the closure of liquor bars in the state. 

 

Meanwhile, former MPs K Sudhakaran and PT Thomas have indirectly hinted that they were ready to take up the responsibility if the party entrusted them for the top job. More would be nursing the dreams. As the state is readying for the by-election in the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress cannot wait long for appointing a new state chief.