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Kannur MP K Sudhakaran is new Kerala Congress chief
Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: More than a month after losing the crucial state Assembly polls, the Congress revamped its Kerala unit on Tuesday and appointed senior leader and Member of Parliament K Sudhakaran as its new president. It also appointed party MP K Suresh and legislators P T Thomas and T Siddique as the working presidents in the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). The need for the party''s overhaul was felt after its drubbing in the recently-concluded Assembly polls as it failed to wrest power back from the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF). Incidentally, 15 of the 20 Lok Sabha MPs from Kerala, including Rahul Gandhi, are from the Congress.

"The Congress president has appointed K Sudhakaran, MP, as the president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee with immediate effect. "The Congress president has also appointed Kodikkunnil Suresh, MP, P T Thomas, MLA, and T Siddique, MLA, as working presidents of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee," a statement issued by the party said. It said the party appreciates the contributions of outgoing PCC president Mullappally Ramachandran and outgoing working president K V Thomas. Sudhakaran is the party''s Lok Sabha MP from Kannur, while Suresh represents the Congress in the Lower House of Parliament from the Mavelikkara (SC) constituency. The party high-command picked Sudhakaran (73) for the top post, replacing Mullappally Ramachandran, after days of discussions involving Congress leaders in the southern state as well as in Delhi. Sudhakaran has been a four-time MLA and served as a minister in the A K Antony cabinet during the 2001-2004 period.

A firebrand leader and a staunch critic of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, he has been known as the party''s face in Kannur, a traditional Left fortress. Known for his sharp speeches and daring personality, Sudhakaran has a strong base of followers in north Kerala, especially in politically volatile Kannur. He is generally considered as one of the few Congress leaders who are strong enough to take on the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in its citadel. Soon after the party-led United Democratic Front (UDF) suffered a mauling in the Assembly polls from the ruling LDF and settled with just 41 seats in the 140-member Assembly, there had been a clamour for leadership change in the state unit of the Congress. When vibrant leader V D Satheesan was appointed as the new legislative party leader last month, it was almost certain that there would also be a change in the KPCC chief''s post.

After reports emerged that Ramachandran had expressed his unwillingness to continue as the KPCC chief, a section of leaders and activists had flooded the Congress high-command with requests to give Sudhakaran a chance to revive the grand old party in the coastal state. No other major names were considered for the post as the leaders of the party factions led by Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala reportedly did not make any suggestions, sources said. After Satheesan, Sudhakaran''s appointment is also being viewed as a strong message from the party high-command to its leaders and workers in the southern state to rise above group equations. Meanwhile, Sudhakaran told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that Wayanad MP and former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi informed him about his new responsibility over the phone.

Stating that he would try all possible ways to revive the party in Kerala and regain the confidence of its cadre, the veteran leader said he has been entrusted with the big responsibility of bringing the Congress back to its erstwhile organisational set up. "I will try to take everyone in the party together and seek their support and cooperation to revive the party. The Congress will surely regain its strength and make a strong comeback in the state," he added.

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