Tussle Over Rajya Sabha Seat Divides Congress In Kerala. Ally Is Winner

Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien will not get another term after Congress loses seat to ally

New Delhi:  The Congress in Kerala is facing a revolt after giving up a Rajya Sabha seat to the Kerala Congress (Mani), a regional ally that had left it two years ago amid a rift over a corruption scam.

The decision means Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien will not get another term. But for the Congress, which wants to win over as many allies as it can ahead of the 2019 general election, it is collateral damage.

Several party leaders, including young legislators and a former state Congress chief, have strongly objected to the party’s decision.

“This is an abject surrender by the Congress,” Mr Kurien has reportedly said, blaming senior party leaders and accusing them of misleading Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

State Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala, former chief minister Oommen Chandy and others met Rahul Gandhi and suggested giving Mr Kurien’s seat to Kerala Congress (M), as a step to bring them back to the Congress-led UDF.

“It is a one-time arrangement,” Mr Chennithala has reportedly said.

The Congress has been facing a tussle over the seat for weeks. Younger lawmakers had posted on social media that Mr Kurien, a veteran Congress leader who has been Rajya Sabha deputy chairman since August 2012, should step aside.

One lawmaker posted on Facebook that the party must not treat the Rajya Sabha as an “old age home” and another said 77-year-old Mr Kurien should “take this opportunity to wisely to withdraw from Parliamentary politics”.

Mr Kurien did not hide his dismay, posting: “Why are the young MLAs attacking me… Should you insult the elderly by calling them ‘aged’?”. He also questioned if getting old was a crime and whether the young lawmakers, all of whom were no older than 28, treated elders at their home the same way.

Three Rajya Sabha seats in Kerala, including the one held by Mr Kurien, will fall vacant on July 1.

When it became clear that he would not be renominated to the Rajya Sabha, Mr Kurien is said to have written to Rahul Gandhi suggesting that if not him, the party should nominate another Congress leader for the seat. He is said to have suggested the names of six leaders – among them were Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president MM Hassan, former state chief VM Sudheeran, PC Vishnunath and PC Chacko.

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