'How and why did we lose so many seats in places where we were expected to win?'
A few days before the list of Congress presidents for the 14 districts in Kerala (District Congress Committee or DCC presidents) were announced, two senior leaders -- former MLA K Sivadasan and K P Anil Kumar, a former state general secretary of the party -- expressed their displeasure over the selection and were suspended from the Congress for their views.
Earlier this week, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee Secretary P S Prasanth wrote to former party president Rahul Gandhi -- the Congress MP from Wayanad in Kerala -- seeking the removal of Congress General Secretary K C Venugopal, who is arguably Rahul's closest political aide. Prashant was almost instantly expelled from the party without a show cause notice.
In his letter, Prasanth alleged that Venugopal, the 'third in command in the party', works as 'an agent of Bharatiya Janata Party'.
Kerala Congress President K Sudhakaran said Prasanth was expelled for 'challenging the Congress high command and making wild allegations.'
"If you look at what happened in Goa, Karnataka and Punjab, there is a clear case of inefficient leadership, strategy and overall mismanagement. As the third in command, you (K C Venugopal) have a lot of responsibility which you have clearly neglected," Prashanth tells Rediff.com's Divya Nair in a telephone interview.
How long have you been with the Congress?
I have been an ardent follower and supporter of the Congress since a very young age.
My father was a farmer and I studied in a government school. During the time my father served the Congress as mandalam president, I would read his speeches which were beamed through a mike tied on to an autorickshaw during panchayat elections.
In 2011, I was district president of the Youth Congress and supposed to contest the assembly elections from Nedumangadu constituency. My name was kept on hold till the last minute and I lost the opportunity to Palode Ravi.
But I continued to work and in the last 10 years, I served as executive committee member of the KPCC.
In 2021, I was rightfully given the candidature for the Nedumangadu constituency.
My last post was that of KPCC secretary.
Why did you write the letter to Rahul Gandhi?
Almost a month ago, I had raised my concerns about the attitude of a few leaders at a KPCC meeting. Before the DCC list was announced, there was no discussion.
A lot of senior leaders have also expressed their displeasur, but no action was taken.
That is why I decided to write the letter.
I have not said or done anything against the party. I have only stated facts and requested to investigate the current situation.
Why do you think you were expelled from the party?
There are a couple of reasons that I can think of.
There are some people who have served the party for over 35 years. Before the elections, there was a slight reshuffle within the party so that new people could come to power. That is how I was picked for Nedumangadu after 10 years.
Some people in the party like Palode Ravi couldn't digest this. And they did the best they could to ensure my defeat in various ways.
But I did not lose because of these conspiracies.
What I noticed was basically, the party had lost its confidence insociety.
One of the biggest losses was in Trivandrum where we contested 14 seats. Till date, we've always won at least 4 seats. But this year, we only got one, which is a big failure.
When someone from your party is contesting from a place which is expected to win, as a senior leader, you are expected to support the candidate irrespective of your personal differences. That did not happen in my case
Recently, a committee was set up to investigate why we lost the election.
A month ago, I brought up these issues with K Sudhakaran (currently, the KPCC president) and suggested that the people because of whom we lost the election should not be promoted as a reward.
A few days later I got news that Palode Ravi was considered in the list of names for the post of DCC president.
I protested and suggested that we wait for the investigating committee to submit the report before finalising the names. I did not take any names or accuse anyone. But the party suspended me. There was no discussion, or explanation.
I wrote the letter so that Rahul Gandhi is made aware of the happenings and intentions of leaders like Venugopal and Palode Ravi.
It is a clear conspiracy.
Were you issued a show cause notice before you were expelled?
Not at all. In fact, I was surprised to learn of the developments from other people and from news media reports. I got the official letter only an hour ago today (September 2, 2021).
Has your expulsion had any impact among your supporters in the party?
People in my constituency are obviously concerned and worried.
They have been calling up to check on me and the developments. I am equally surprised. I don't know what to tell them.
In your letter to Rahul Gandhi you alleged that '(K C Venugopal) His actions are highly susceptible that he works as an agent of the BJP from the Congress?' Do you have evidence to support this claim?
The current circumstances and failures are proof enough.
If you look at what happened in Goa, Karnataka and Punjab, there is a clear case of inefficient leadership, strategy and overall mismanagement.
In Goa, there were independent MLAs waiting outside hotel rooms to join and support the Congress. There was no strategy or sincere effort from our leaders to win.
As the third in command, you (Venugopal) have a lot of responsibility which you have clearly neglected. And the party needs to investigate why this happened.
How and why did we lose so many seats in places where we were expected to win?
If MPs and MLAs consider only people like K C Venugopal, other party workers who are more capable or have the potential to become future MPs or MLAs will never come up in the party.
What is the current state of the Congress in Kerala?
In Kerala, the general trend has been LDF (Left Democratic Front)-UDF (United Democratic Front)-LDF-UDF (in power). This is the first time in (Kerala's recent political) history that the LDF regained power.
It has never happened before in Kerala. It means we don't have people's support or confidence. We need to re-analyse our leadership, find out what went wrong.
When the LDF showed a positive trend during the pandemic, the party leadership should have taken cognisance and changed the strategy before the elections.
It has been many years since we had an election (in the party organisation). Let there be an election and change of leadership.
The organisational set-up is becoming weak. We need a good mix of experienced and young leadership if we have to achieve our goals.
How is your equation with Rahul Gandhi? How many times have you interacted with him?
I have met him only once and that too, very briefly. We didn't get to interact much. But we've communicated often through letters for official reasons.
What do you think of the suspension of senior leaders Anilkumar and Sivadasan?
They had raised almost the same issues I had pointed out. These are experienced leaders, but were sidelined.
Unlike me, at least they were given a notice. It is unfortunate that after working for so many years, there is no discussion or scope to present your defence.
What is the status of senior leaders like Oomen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala?
The way I see it, they are also helpless. Even if they want to support (me and other leaders who were suspended), the current leadership will not allow. That is the attitude.
Don't you think the CPI-M and BJP will use this situation against the Congress?
Sadly, it is already happening.
What are you going to do next?
I haven't decided yet. I am getting a few calls. I have to join somewhere so I will wait for a few more days.