Only the Congress can defeat Congress in Kerala, vice-president Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday, sounding a warning to the faction-ridden party attempting to retain power in the poll-bound state.
Gandhi is on a two-day visit to the state amidst growing factionalism within the ruling party, already under severe stress due to corruption charges against chief minister Oommen Chandy and his ministerial colleagues in the solar and bar license scams.
Election to the 141-member assembly is likely to be held around May-June.
“Only the Congress can defeat the Congress in Kerala. The CPI-M can never do that…You have to stand together. If you are able to do that, the UDF (United Democratic Front) government will return to power,” he said.
He assured party leaders of a “personal” hearing of their grievances after the polls.
“It is not the time to discuss differences. It is time to work united to ensure victory,” Gandhi added.
Infighting had dominated discussions during Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s visit to the state two months ago, with partners in the six-party alliance alleging that infighting in the Congress was affecting the performance of the government.
She had later asked the state’s top three leaders – the CM, PCC chief VM Sudheeran and home minister Ramesh Chennithala -- to put the house in order immediately.
During his meeting, Rahul Gandhi also assured party leaders that the central leadership won’t take a hasty decision on a possible tie-up with the Left in West Bengal.
State leaders fear that such an understanding will be suicidal for the party in Kerala and BJP would exploit it to the hilt.
“We have been fighting the Left years together and it used all opportunities to discredit a democratically-elected government in the state. An alliance at this juncture in West Bengal will affect our very existence,” said a senior leader.
(With agency inputs)