Scepticism in Cong. over State leadership

At AICC stocktaking, leaders call for generational shift in candidates’ selection

Several Congress leaders on Sunday reportedly expressed a profound lack of conviction that the party’s current leadership setup in Kerala could offer a convincing fight to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the Assembly elections in 2021.

By several accounts, scepticism that the LDF could win again next year was pervasive among a section of leaders as they took turns "baring their soul" on intra-party matters to Tariq Anwar, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of Kerala affairs.

Mr. Anwar is here on a "stocktaking mission" to examine the local body poll debacle and correct course.

Several MLAs and MPs reportedly pointed out that the "modest" lead and new inroads the LDF had established in the polls was an "ominous sign" that the ruling front had improved its re-election chances drastically. Moreover, they felt the LDF had moved to cement its victory further by fielding youngsters to lead local bodies.

The leaders argued for a convincing generational shift in selecting candidates to counter the purported ebb in enthusiasm among youngsters to vote for the Congress. The generational tension was evident in the local body polls with relatively young faces new to electoral politics winning at the hustings overwhelmingly.

“The AICC might have reservations about changing the party’s leadership framework abruptly. But, it might be inclined to accommodate more youngsters as candidates and perhaps give them a higher role in fixing the election campaign modalities and finalising the manifesto. The AICC realises that the Congress has to offer a credible social-media powered platform of change to counter the LDF campaign,” a party insider said.

He said the party would shift out district presidents having parliamentary responsibilities, signalling leadership changes in Wayanad, Ernakulam and Palakkad.

District-level leaders had given more weightage to group equations than the winnability factor in candidate selection. Women candidates new to electoral politics got scant support from the party. Election funds did not percolate down to them. The LDF was a step-ahead in meeting voters and factoring in caste and demographic patterns in candidate selection. “The party leadership from district-level and upwards were missing in action,” an insider who met Mr. Anwar said.

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