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Priyanka set to play bigger role in Kerala politics

Top 5Priyanka set to play bigger role in Kerala politics

NEW DELHI: As the Congress party is expecting a win in a byelection in Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, there is a belief that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, after she wins, will play an expanded role in the intra-party politics in the state and help build the “trajectory” of the state cadre on her terms. The byelection has been necessitated as her brother Rahul Gandhi decided to retain the Rae Bareli Lok Sabha seat and vacate the Wayanad seat after he won from both places in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The Congress decided to field Priyanka from Wayanad.

A political observer tracking national politics said, “Had they given Priyanka a ticket in the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP would have picked up the issue of dynastic politics. Also, Priyanka would have got equal importance and stardom during the elections as Rahul Gandhi, if not more, which could have eclipsed Rahul’s prominence in Congress. Now that Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a star performer and a political celebrity, Priyanka has been told to get started. Now, she will have to assert her political power from somewhere, therefore the platform from where she can exercise her electoral and organisational power is Kerala if she wins the election.”

Although the Gandhi sister had performed poorly while helming Uttar Pradesh affairs, there are claims within the party that Priyanka may find deep-rooted interest in Kerala politics because of the greater support base she will have in the state since Kerala has given enormous response to Congress in elections. Moreover, the win in Wayanad constituency will not only catapult her popularity but also allow her team to expand into the political and organisational network of the state to make Priyanka’s influence more stable.

There is also talk in the power corridors that Congress general secretary (organisation), K.C. Venugopal wants to go back to Kerala as Pradesh Congress Committee president in the state and develop his route to obtain the Chief Minister’s position in the 2026 Assembly elections. The grand old party believes that it can easily dislodge Kerala’s Left government as there is “too much” discontent against it among the people. A Congress Working Committee (CWC) member said, “If he wants to go to Kerala and become the president of the cadre, it won’t be demotion for him but rather a step back before having a hold on a bigger position. The president’s position would be the precursor to the bigger position he has eyes on.”

Yet, with other senior leaders vying for the same position, there is a general understanding among leaders in the state that the top leaders (considered for chief minister position) are close to Gandhi family rather than a particular sibling and therefore the candidate for the chief minister’s position would be decided after discussion if the grand old party comes to power in the Assembly elections. Interestingly, top sources suggest that K.C. Venugopal may not be in the good books of Priyanka as much as he is in the good books of Rahul. Which has given rise to speculation that Venugopal may not be the first choice of Priyanka while selecting the Chief Minister of Kerala. Which can consequently destroy Venugopal’s ambitions.

Congress insiders believe Venugopal’s acceptance among the rank and file of the grand old party is because of his position in Delhi. If he returns to the state (as Kerala PCC president), a leader said, he will lose the power over innumerable official members of the national unit (AICC organisation). Later, he will have to face the popular leaders in the state where he will find it difficult to create a space for himself. Moreover, Ramesh Chennithala, a mass leader, will work to keep Venugopal away as he does not want any political competitor. A Congress leader said, “Venugopal is not popular in Kerala, above all he won’t be listened to if he comes back to the state. His appointment as PCC chief could also give rise to rival camps. And if there is a minor pushback from Priyanka then he might not be able to stabilize his position in the state as well.”

A source privy to the developments said that Chennithala was the first choice of the Gandhis as Congress’ organisation, general secretary. However, he declined the offer and asserted that he wanted to stay in Kerala politics. “It was then Venugopal was given the post. Also, when it comes to choosing a Chief Minister, Ramesh’s candidature cannot be ruled out as he too is close to the Gandhi family,” the source added.

Furthermore, the important aspect for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra before the Assembly elections would be to have a greater role in ticket distribution. A party insider said, “Ticket distribution is very important. There are leaders like Ramesh Chennithala, V.D. Satheesan, Shashi Tharoor, K.C. Venugopal and K. Sudhakaran who will also have a say in ticket distribution. It is to be seen who gets how many seats for their loyalists. Although the frontrunners who are supposed to get a bigger chunk of seats are Ramesh Chenithala, V.D. Satheesan and K.C. Venugopal but there will be other claimants as well. Ultimately it will be up to the Gandhis.”

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