Congressís own clean crusader is back

V M Sudheeran, 63, was not among those the Congress fielded in the Kerala elections, which the party-led front UDF barely won. Had he been a candidate, many in the Congress believe, Sudheeran would have ensured a much wider margin.

They feel Sudheeran could have been the Congress's answer to V S Achuthanandan and his aggressive crusade against corruption, to which the CPM owes its performance. Like the outgoing Chief Minister, Sudheeran too has a reputation for clean politics.

Now, Sudheeran says the Congress needs to pinpoint why it did not win more comprehensively. "The party should honestly discuss why it lost many seats," he says. "The executive committee should be convened to discuss why the victory of the Lok Sabha and local body elections could not be repeated."

He has not contested an election since he lost in the Lok Sabha polls of 2004, his chances ruined by a candidate with the same name. "I wanted younger candidates to be given a chance. The rush for seats was huge," says Sudheeran.

Like VS, Sudheeran belongs to the backward Ezhava community, a traditional votebank for the CPM. He has, however, never banked on his Ezhava identity. Always campaigning against liquor, he has said he does not want the support of prominent Ezhava leader Vellappally Nateshan, believed to hold the key to the votebank.

Sudheeran, like VS, has been known to go against the party stand or a party leader while addressing issues concerning the common man. And the issues Sudheeran wants taken up are the same as those raised by VS: environmental issues, highway development, land reclamation, a campaign against endosulfan, social problems. "In Kerala, the mainstream parties are reluctant to look at issues of public concern. Intervention, unfortunately, is limited to a few leaders," he says.

In the recent past, only VS and Sudheeran have dared to take on Indian Union Muslim League leader P K Kunhalikutty. If VS has targeted Kunhalikutty for alleged corruption and alleged sexual misconduct, Sudheeran has campaigned against illegal permission granted to mine mineral sand from the coast when the IUML leader was Industries Minister. Even then Chief Minister A K Antony, to whom Sudheeran is close, could not block Kunhalikutty but Sudheeran has campaigned relentlessly.

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