Resentment cutting across group affiliations is brewing within the Congress against the appointment of former Kerala chief minister A K Antony's son Anil Antony as the convenor of KPCC's IT cell.
At the moment, it is only a former Youth Congress member, Arun Raj, who has openly revolted. But it is not a stray random voice. It is part of an incremental counter strategy to strike at the might of A K Antony at the right moment. Second-rung Congress leaders have encouraged Arun Raj to make more provocative statements. He is the bait. The hope is KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran will pull out the whip and issue a stricture. At this point, the leaders behind Arun Raj will come out in the open and publicly question the appointment.
The common refrain among young Congress leaders Onmanorama talked to was this: “At a time when even the reorganisation of the KPCC has been put on hold, and the Youth Congress elections have been stalled, we have A K Antony's son being sneaked into a crucial position through the back door.”
It is the timing that seems to have aroused suspicion. “We have information that just before this appointment Anil Antony had done a study on his electoral prospects in Wayanad,” a top Congress leader said. Other leaders said Antony Junior was eyeing not just Wayanad. “Chalakkudy is the other seat that he has set his sights on,” another leader said. Only K Muraleedharan was airdropped like this before. "Most of the sons of Congress leaders now in politics – be it Hibi Eden or Shoukath Aryadan – had been through the grind. They had worked in the party for a few years. If no one seriously objected to Sabarinathan's entry it was because his presence was needed for the party's victory in Aruvikkara after former Speaker G Karthikeyan's death," the Congress leader said.
A close Antony aide said paranoia had gripped some Congress leaders. “The post that Anil has got is not something any Youth Congress leader worth his salt would give his right arm for,” the Antony group leader said. Even Cherian Philip, once Antony's closest aide but then a bitter foe, said Congress leaders are reading too much into the appointment. “It is not a very senior post. It is not a post that matters either. It is as if Anil has been appointed to a senior post in the Youth Congress or the KPCC,” Cheriya Philip said.
However, it is this seeming insignificance of the post that have made the revolting Congress leaders wary. “This appointment looks very innocuous. It looks like a mere technical appointment. Truth is, Anil Antony gets automatic entry to the KPCC executive. Has the KPCC leadership taken us for fools,” a senior leader said.
Those opposed to the appointment suspect that Anil Antony's entry was part of a well thought out script. Three months before, just after Mullappally Ramachandran took over as KPCC chief, a function was organised to felicitate Anil Antony and Priya Dutt for their flood relief activities. “Now we realise that this was a way of introducing Anil as a youth leader to be reckoned with,” a Congress leader said.
But many Youth Congress leaders Onmanorama talked to said Anil Antony was too aloof a person who had no idea how the party worked.
Anil Antony's suitability has also been questioned. “Why is he the only person to lead our digital campaign,” a leader asked. “We have many young IT professionals who moonlight in our IT cell. They have been working for the party right from their college days. There are even post-graduate holders from reputed institutions like IIT who still work for us during their spare time. If efficiency was what they were looking for, why not any one of these youths,” the leader said.
Nonetheless, Anil Antony has an impressive biodata. He is a graduate in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, USA and Industrial Engineering from College of Engineering, Trivandrum. He was also one of the founders of Torque, one of Kerala's first startups. He was a leading member of Rahul Gandhi's social media team during the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Anil is at present the executive director of Cyber India, a platform working in the field of cyber security solutions.