The Rahul impact on Kerala is now the talking point in the state's political circles. Even those within the Congress party come out with mixed reactions while discussing the possible impact of Rahul Gandhi assuming office as AICC president. They, no doubt hail in the open Rahul's coronation while in private add a few but and if.
There is no denying that Kerala always has had a soft corner for the Nehru-Gandhi family. But whether the goodwill would continue unabated towards Rahul Gandhi as well remains a moot point. Also being debated is the changing equations in the Kerala unit of the party among top leaders of the Congress and their groups which have been fighting one another.
Significantly Rahul Gandhi's visit to the state capital last week was marred by the student activists of the warring groups in the Congress taking it into the streets. Rahul had come down to Thiruvananthapuram mainly to address the valedictory function of Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala's march across the state named ''padayorukkam' and also to meet the fisher folk in the coastal belt who were hit by Ockhi tycoon. As the congressmen were dispersing after hearing Rahul Gandhi, some of them belonging to rival groups clashed in front of the government secretariat and two among them were stabbed and a few of them injured. Ironically Rahul in his speech was driving home the point that all Congressmen transcending groups should stand united to fight the party's rivals. As news channels along with reports on Rahul Gandhi's visit, flashed the news of street fighting between rival Congress groups, the general impression gathered by the people at large was that Rahul's call for unity in the party had fallen on deaf ears.
Nobody in the Congress or among the party's detractors expects faction feud in Kerala to end with the taking over by Rahul Gandhi as the new AICC chief. But speculation is rife in Congress circles that some state leaders' chances would be brighter while some others' would be dim under the new helmsman. It is an open secret that those who were close to the mother are not that close to the son and vice versa. In a wide contrast with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul had directly interfered in the Congress affairs in Kerala even before becoming the AICC president. That means such direct interference by the high command could be much more during the Rahul era than what it was during the Sonia era. This is what embarrasses many.
Interestingly there was a loner at the Thiruvananthapuram airport when Rahul Gandhi landed. It was none other than the former KPCC chief V.M.Sudheeran. Nobody among the hundreds of Congressmen who gathered at the airport bothered to attend to the ex-KPCC chief who felt isolated. The odd Congressman out could not even join the convoy that escorted Rahul to the city. Sudheeran did not accompany Rahul to the coastal areas where all other leaders from all groups were warming their way in. He did not turn up at the public meeting addressed by Rahul Gandhi either.
These are all viewed as pointers by political circles. Sudheeran was airdropped by Rahul Gandhi as KPCC chief a few years back ignoring opposition by the then congress chief minister Ommen Chandy. Sudheeran, unlike most other Congress leaders in the state, has had no group of his own. He has been keeping off the 'I'group led by Ramesh Chennithala and the 'A' group led by Ommen Chandy. But both groups are of the view that Sudheeran though group-less always promotes his own selfish interests rather than the party's interests.
The one who had maximum mileage out of Rahul's Thiruvananthapuram visit on the eve of the coronation as party chief is Ramesh Chennithala who heads the 'I' group. 'Padayorukkam' was Ramesh's personal show to a large extent, especially at a time when the party in Kerala, especially the former chief minister and the 'A' group's head Ommen Chandy were rattled by the judicial commission's report on the solar scam. It is to be noted that Ommen Chandy, though present at all Rahul's functions in the state capital was conspicuously on a low key.
Last but not the least, in contrast to the policy of the Kerala leadership, Rahul Gandhi was more critical of BJP in his Thiruvananthapuram speech than of CPM which heads the ruling front in the state. His only question to CPM was whether they considered BJP as the main enemy.