Political Paradox | 'Headless' Congress sees rush of youth to don Neta's mantle in Kerala

Political Paradox | 'Headless' Congress sees rush of youth to don Neta's baton in Kerala
Carrying thick files with their biodata, details of the programmes they coordinated and the protests they took part, 632 men and women attended the event, dubbed 'talent hunt' by the media.
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Kochi: Congress has become rudderless at the national level after its rout in the Lok Sabha election and Rahul Gandhi's resignation from the president's post, but that has not stopped the party's Kerala unit to conduct a two-day selection process to elect state office-bearers for its youth wing – Indian Youth Congress (IYC) – in Kochi on Wednesday and Thursday.

The uncertainty over the party's future, however, has not deterred the young Congress workers to attend the event, present their credentials and impress the selectors, headed by Ravindra Das, who is in-charge of the organisation in Kerala.

Carrying thick files with their biodata, details of the programmes they coordinated and the protests they took part, 632 men and women attended the event, dubbed 'talent hunt' by the media.

Kerala is one of the few states where the grand old party has a strong organisational base. That was one of the reasons for the party's impressive show in the Lok Sabha election, in which it had won 15 out of the 20 seats on offer.

Such a selection process is not new to the Youth Congress. In 2011, it picked Ramya Haridas as its national co-ordinator. Ramya went on to become a star in Kerala politics after she won from the CPM bastion of Alathur by a huge margin in the recently held Lok Sabha election.

Ramya Haridas
Ramya Haridas became a star in Kerala politics after she won from the CPM bastion of Alathur by a huge margin in the recently held Lok Sabha election.

“In 2011, the talent hunt was organised under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi,” Ramya told Onmanorama. “Youth Congress office-bearers had conducted background checks in my village to verify our claims and the data we had submitted were true,” she said.

Evading factional feud?

It appears that the Congress top brass organised the selection to evade the factional feud and bring talented youngsters to the leadership role.

Intense factionalism has been the hallmark of the Congress in Kerala since the 1980s. The state unit is divided into two dominant factions: Group A, which owes its allegiance to former state Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Group I, led by Ramesh Chennithala, leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly. Organisational elections in both Congress and Youth Congress had turned out to be farce and ended in street fights several times in the past.

Oommen Chandy
Oommen Chandy

Youngsters who attended the interview told Onmanorama that the selection is the best way to find future leaders.

“Only the merits of each candidate are considered here. This helps us showcase our track record and talents,” said Chithra from Thiruvananthapuram.

A district leader from Kollam said this is the best practice to end factionalism. “Elections may end up in street fights between rival factions. We claim that we are fighting the CPM and RSS in Kerala. And if we fight among ourselves on the streets, it would be embarrassing,” he said.

Who is your favourite leader?

Youth Congress leaders said the event is only a first step towards the election of the state and district-level office-bearers.

Ramesh Chennithala
Ramesh Chennithala

“Talent hunt is a misnomer. This is only a review of potential state level contestants. Based on this review, we will prepare a list and it will be handed over to the leadership in Delhi. A final call on the election will be taken by them,” Ravindra Das, who is in-charge of the Youth Congress in Kerala, told Onmanorama on Thursday.

The participants said they were asked about their track record as a Youth Congress activist and the vision and plans for the organisation's future.

Asked whether there was a question about their favourite leader, all of them replied in the negative. However, one candidate said, “I was asked who is my favourite leader. I said Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala.” The young man was hoping that he had hoodwinked the interviewers who were trying to find out which group does he belong to. However, a fellow applicant soon busted his hope. “You mentioned Oommen Chandy first. So they will assume that you support him,” he said.

A few candidates, however, termed the whole exercise as a farce. “At the end of the day, the office-bearers will be finalised by various faction leaders in the state,” said a youngster on condition of anonymity. He said he attended the interview only to save his current district-level position. “I am not eyeing a state-level position. However, I was told that only those who appear for this interview will be considered for the posts at the lower levels too,” he said.

Youth Congress
As many as 632 Youth Congress activists attended the event in Kochi.

Hari, another aspirant from Kollam, however, sounded quite optimistic. “The screening ensures that only those who have got real talent reach the top order,” he said.

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