It looks like good riddance for the Kerala unit of the Congress , when it finally expelled KV Thomas, senior Congress leader and former state and union minister from the party.
Although it was a foregone conclusion about the veteran leader, it became official on Thursday when the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) took a formal decision to expel him. He had earlier been relieved of all the party's official responsibilities and had only an ordinary membership. The expulsion decision is said to have the blessings of the party's high command.
The sentiment among the party's leadership and shared by most of the senior leaders in recent weeks is that he was more a liability to be shed than a leader lost and to be brought back.
That was reflected in the remarks by Opposition leader VD Satheesan who said that he was happy to bid adieu to KV Thomas from the Congress. He added that the CPM could now endure what the Congress has done for so long.
KV Thomas went to the CPM challenging the public consciousness of Kerala. With the CPM roping him him, the UDF will get more votes in Thrikkakara, added Satheesan. The party workers and the general public feel only contempt for Thomas, and when when CPM's leadership accepts him, the party ranks may be seeing him with the same contempt.
Satheesan said that the Congress made an effort not to expel anyone from the party. KV Thomas had decided to leave the party before the Assembly elections. But the understanding with the CPM could not work out well for him. Even after that he was looking forward to the opportunity to go.
As for KV Thomas, there was no foothold left in the Congress Party which did not consider him for any seat in elections either in parliament or the state assembly.
The most recent context of his break from the party, where he had worked for nearly half a century, came when he accepted an invitation by the CPM to be a speaker at a symposium at the CPM Party Congress held at Kannur in early April. Congress MP and writer Shashi Tharoor was also invited to it.
The state Congress leadership didn't take kindly to the CPM's move and asked both leaders to decline the invite, probably thinking that it would add mileage to the CPM especially when the Congress had no lost for the Communists.
On the party's instructions, Tharoor cried off from the event, albeit with a demur. Thomas was also at the point of doing it as per his version. He claimed later that he had indicated to the organisers his inability to attend it, but was provoked by words used by the KPCC president K Sudhakaran, which sounded arrogant to Thomas, and then decided to attend it inviting disciplinary action in the form of a show cause notice. Thomas replied to it, but with neither apology or willingness to change course.
That was followed by his decision to campaign for the CPM candidate in Thrikkakkara by-election, Dr Jo Joseph. The seat was rendered vacant with the demise of PT Thomas whose wife is the UDF candidate there. His subsequent participation in the campaign there with physical participation at election meetings was the last straw for the Congress. Disciplinary action followed culminating in Thursday's expulsion.
Tactically, the Congress is playing down the episode and not making an issue of even the CPM snatching a party deserter, so that it does not give any PR advantage to the CPM or a martyr image to Thomas himself.
Although KV Thomas had been swearing all through that he was, is and will remain a Congressman, his recent political track was set for all to see, i.e breaking from the party and charting his own course. The CPM had publicly declared that if he was ditched by the Congress he would not be left in the lurch. And the grapevine started doing the rounds that he would be offered the post of Chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission, a position that would be more a rehabilitation than one requiring political posturing. It had been given as a consolation post to former CM VS Achuthanandan which he resigned a year ago.
Even as those are matters that remain to be seen, at the minimum the CPM cannot afford to ignore a senior Congress deserter whose breaking point with his parent party happened around a party event.