Congress appoints VD Satheesan as leader of opposition in Kerala
After days of uncertainty and long deliberations, the Congress on Saturday selected senior leader V D Satheesan as the leader of opposition in Kerala legislative assembly.
“We will work as a responsible opposition and extend all support to the government in its fight against the pandemic. Fight against communal forces will top the party’s main agenda,” said the new opposition leader.
Satheesan (56) takes over the mantle from Ramesh Chennithala, who during his stint took up many popular issues and unearthed several alleged omissions and commissions of the first Pinarayi Vijayan government.
The Congress had suffered a humiliating defeat in the recent assembly elections, which saw its strength reduced to 21 in the 140-member house.
According to party insiders, the high command’s decision to pick Satheesan is considered a major policy shift in the faction-ridden state unit. The party has also given enough hints that Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Mullapally Ramachandran will also be shifted. Sensing his imminent exit, the state unit chief has expressed his desire to quit, a party insider said on the condition of anonymity. After poll debacle, many young leaders sought a major operation in the party to check its further slide. Two powerful groups in the party’s state unit, one led by Chennithala and other by former chief minister Oommen Chandy, always called shots.
A party team headed by senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge had met all legislators last week to know their opinion. Though some of them supported Chennithala, majority reportedly favoured a change in the party and that helped Satheesan to get the new post, the party insider added.
While Chennithala and Mullapally Ramachandran welcomed Satheesan’s elevation, there were reports that Chandy was initially upset with the decision, but he later denied it saying it was only media creation. There are speculations that Chennithala will be given a key party position in Delhi. Congress strongman and member of Parliament from Kannur K Sudhakaran is a top contender for the PCC chief’s post, the party insider said.
A five-time legislator from Paravur constituency in Ernakulam district, Satheesan rose through the ranks. Started his political career in student days, he was the vice-president of the state unit and also served as the All India Congress Committee secretary. A good orator, his effective intervention in the House in crucial times was lauded, party leaders said.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan congratulated the new opposition leader and hailed his statement that the opposition will give full support in the fight against the pandemic. The Muslim League, the second biggest ally in the United Democratic Front, also welcomed Satheesan’s elevation.