Satheesan will now become the new Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly. The AICC will soon deliberate on a successor to Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullappilly Ramachandran as well, sources said.
Chennithala (64) being made to make way for Sathesean (56) is being projected by many leaders as a “generational” shift in the state party structure. It is also being seen as a decision that has come “above the usual factional considerations” even though both leaders technically belong to the same (I) Group within the PCC. The AICC will try to placate Chennithala by offering him a berth in the Congress Woking Committee or an AICC post, party insiders said.
The appointment came after AICC observers submitted their report to party interim president Sonia Gandhi after assessing the mood of the state MLAs.
The AICC packaged the decision as party leader “Rahul Gandhi’s nod” for the “generational shift seekers” among its young MLAs.
According to party sources, Chennithala – who publicly welcomed Satheesan’s appointment – told the AICC representatives in private that he would have resigned as leader of the opposition in advance, if the party leadership was merely making a formality of observers’ assessment of the MLAs’ mood for choosing the CLP leader.
Chennithala and former chief minister Oommen Chandy control the bulk of the state Congress’ organisational machinery. So, the AICC and its new state leadership will need to command the support of the organisational structure.
Though both Chennithala and Satheesan belong to the influential Nair community in the state, there is considerable curiosity about how the state Congress’ Hindu base will react to Chennithala’s removal, particularly in view of the post-poll buzz that certain stakeholders in the minority communities were resentful of Chennithala being the leader of the opposition.