V.M. Sudheeran called it quits at the opportune time. He was well aware of the storm gathering within the Congress.
He cited health issues when he announced his resignation as the Congress chief in Kerala. The leader who tripped from the dais at a function in Kozhikode knew he had fallen from grace in his own party much before. The accident gave him a reason to cite.
The cry for the removal of Sudheeran has been getting shriller ever since the party suffered a humiliating setback in the Legislative Assembly election last year. The party high command, however, stood by him. A.K. Antony even resisted the lobbying by his own loyalists and secured an honorable exit for the senior leader.
Antony was greeted by heaps of complaints against Sudheeran from all sections of the party when he was in Thiruvananthapuram recently. Party leaders said it was impossible to work with Sudheeran. Antony pacified them with an assurance that the party high command would take a suitable decision after the assembly poll results were out in five states.
The ‘A’ group stepped up its campaign against the KPCC president by calling informal meetings of district-level leaders. Sudheeran was accused of orchestrating a move to sideline former chief minister Oommen Chandy. The hardening of stance was not easy for the party high command to ignore.
Even the other dominant group wanted the KPCC president to go.
Sudheeran’s announcement on Friday was not so unexpected after all. He was particularly pained by K C Joseph’s comment that the Congress would still have been in power in Kerala had G. Karthikeyan been chosen as KPCC president instead of Sudheeran.
Some observers say that Sudheeran had sought disciplinary action against Joseph. When the party high command rejected the request, Sudheeran knew that his isolation was complete.
Sudheeran, however, brushed aside the speculation. “Nothing of that sort has happened. I have not taken it seriously,” he said.
The veteran quit his post in the party without even consulting vice president Rahul Gandhi, who had braved the resistance from heavyweights in the state to anoint Sudheeran as the party chief three years ago.
“The high command would have never let me quit. I did not want to disobey the leadership. They will understand my health situation,” he said.
Many leaders in the Congress were expecting the party high command to iron out the differences in Kerala by kicking Sudheeran upstairs as a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee or a member of the Congress Working Committee. Even his detractors did not have enough ammo to use against the unblemished track record of the veteran.
Sudheeran was not in a mood to wait for a rehabilitation package though.
He was able to withstand the formations against him after the party’s rout in the assembly elections. Overseeing a change of guard at the district units of the party, Sudheeran saw to it that many of his favorites were accommodated.
The latest KPCC executive committee meeting went without incidents but Sudheeran was aware of the headwinds ahead.