After civic body polls, UDF in Kerala at the crossroads. Image Source: IANS News

Thiruvananthapuram, March 4 : Gone are the days when top Congress leaders like A.K. Antony, Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala held sway over the party affairs in Kerala, the last word comes from K.C.Venugopal in Kerala.

Ever since he was made the Congress general secretary in-charge of organisational affairs, the stock of the 58-year-old has been on the rise, leaving behind seasoned veterans and seniors in the party.

The growth trajectory of the new Congress strongman began when in the 1990s, his closeness with the then all powerful K. Karunakaran gave him the initial momentum and ever since then he has not had to look back.

A senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity said that since both Karunakaran and Venugopal hailed from Kannur, there was much synergy between them right from the start.

"Even Karunakaran's wife has been quite fond of the young upcoming leader from the start. That early start he got from the Karunakaran household helped him hugely and starting from his first victory in the 1996 assembly polls, Venugopal went on to complete a hat-trick from Alappuzha.

"His stock rose further when he was drafted to contest the Lok Sabha polls in 2009 and he repeated it in 2014 and it was then that his closeness with Rahul Gandhi, saw him rise further within the party," said the Congress leader.

He was made the Minister of State for Civil Aviation in 2012 and it was then he used his man management skills to the best and got even closer to the Gandhi family.

"The fact that he did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Alappuzha, which was the only seat of the 20 that the Congress led UDF failed to win, did not deter the Congress high command from fielding him from Rajasthan to the Upper House.

"Since then he has consolidated his position and is presently the most powerful leader in Congress from Kerala," added the source who did not wish to be identified.

Another theory that's now making the rounds is that, with Antony who was at the helm of affairs from 2005 till recently and who is old and have a failing health, was the one who placed Venugopal in the driver's seat, with the intention of checkmating his seasoned colleagues like Chandy and Chennithala.

"When the final list of Congress candidates are released, all will know that the stamp of Venugopal will definitely be there, unlike in the past, when the party's various faction leaders had the final say. No doubt, at the moment he is the most powerful Congress leader in Delhi and has the final say in crucial matters," said another Congress leader .

In a few days from now, when the final list of candidates is released from Delhi, by the end of this week or early next week, Congress leaders in Kerala will have no doubt, that in the party, it's no longer Antony, Chandy or Chennithala who is the last word, but it's Venugopal.

-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text

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