Opinion | Lesson 1 from local body poll rout of Congress in Kerala – a public policy panel

Congress high command against fielding MPs in Assembly polls

After suffering the unexpected setback in the civic body polls, the Congress in Kerala appears to be on a correction course. The formation of a dedicated committee for public policy appears to be the first step towards an image makeover.

Noted human rights activist and former UN official John Samuel Adoor, better known as JS Adoor, is heading the panel, the other members of which are yet to be announced. The formation of the body is seen as a positive move of the party's state leadership, which had failed to cash in on the series of allegations against the ruling Left Front in the local body polls.

Adoor has already started consulting party workers at the grassroots level as part of initiating the bigger task in his hands.

“The committee's approach will be to provide the party with a policy direction by combining the knowledge and opinions from the grassroots level with the knowledge perspectives at the national and international level,” Adoor told Onmanorama.

Adoor, who has been a Congress sympathiser for long, has been part of civil society movements before. This is the first time he is associating with mainstream politics. “These are the times when you can't bring in changes by staying in the peripheries of a party. India is at a historical juncture where it has to choose between democracy and majoritarian mobocracy,” he said.

He said he chose to be a part of Congress because of the party's culture of inclusiveness and internal democracy.

JS Adoor
JS Adoor

'Positive sign'

A young leader Gighio spoke to said the formation of the policy body and the appointment of a knowledgeable person like Adoor to its helm was a positive sign for the party in Kerala. “However, the changes such a panel can bring in will depend on the mandate it has been given,” he said.

On the origin of the idea of such a panel, Adoor said it was just a party decision. However, among party circles, there are rumours that Adoor is a nominee of a senior leader with whom he shares a good relationship.

A prominent Congress leader, who is part of the party's decision making bodies, said he was unaware of how the panel was formed. “There has not been any discussion about it in party forums. Anyway, we will accept the panel's proposals if they fit into the party's larger frameworks,” he said.

Policy or strategy?

The panel, though named the public policy committee, will also be acting as a strategic body, especially in the run-up to the assembly polls in Kerala due in a few months.

Adoor had played a crucial role in the election campaign of Congress candidate Ramya Haridas, who wrested the Alathur Lok Sabha seat in 2019. Adoor knew Haridas earlier as she was part of Ekta Parishad, a non-profit mass-based peoples' movement for land rights.

“He helped me in his own ways during my campaign, especially for fundraising. He has been like an advisor to me on several issues” Haridas told Onmanorama.

Adoor also runs Bodhigram, which identifies itself as a grassroots social movement committed to sustainable development, democratic governance, human rights and empowerment of women and youth.

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