(Eds: Adds details) Thiruvananthapuram, May 22 (PTI) After suffering a mauling in the Assembly election from Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF in Kerala, the Congress on Saturday appointed five-time MLA V D Satheesan as new Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.
The party's high command's decision nominating the 56- year-old Satheesan as new opposition leader was announced by KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran here.
He replaced senior leader Ramesh Chennithala, who was also re-elected as MLA from his seat Haripad in Alappuzha district.
Satheesan, elected from Paravur Assembly seat in Ernakulam district, will lead a 41-member Congress-led UDF in the state Assembly against the CPI(M)-led LDF, which retained power in the recent Assembly polls by winning 99 seats, bucking the trend of alternating between two coalitions.
'The AICC has nominated Satheesan as the leader of the party's parliamentary party in Kerala assembly. The KPCC wishes him all success,' Ramachandran told reporters.
According to Congres sources, the decision to make a generational change in the parliamentary party was taken considering the severe drubbing of the party-led UDF in the Assembly polls led by party veterans including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Chennithala and Ramachandran.
The young leaders of the party, particularly a section from the youth congress, conducted a campaign seeking removal of the old guard from the party's state leadership to make it relevant in state politics.
Senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge and V Vaidyalingam had visited the state seeking the opinion of the MLAs and MPs on who should be entrusted with the post of Leader of Opposition for the next five years.
The old guard of the party in the state including Chandy had argued for the continuation of Chennithala in the post.
The pressure from the veterans delayed the decision in the selection of the new Leader of Opposition, the sources said.
Finally, the high command took a tough decision to infuse fresh blood into the system, nominating Satheesan to the key post.
Satheesan, a powerful Congress leader from Ernakulam district-- a stronghold of the party in the state, said there would be changes in the opposition's traditional style of functioning both inside and outside of the Assembly.
The new changes will be in accordance with the changes of the time.
'I thank the party's national leadership and the senior leaders of Kerala for entrusting me with the role of Leader of the Opposition during the crisis of the UDF and the Congress,' he told media in Kochi.
He said he has clear conviction that the post is not a flower crown.
Satheesan, an ardent supporter of Nehruvian socialism, said there will be no compromise on any form of communalism.
Both majority communalism and minority communalism will be opposed.
Graduating from the partys campus arm Kerala Students union (KSU) to the Youth Congress, this is an upshot in Satheesan's political career.
In a steady and linear career spanning nearly four decades, often marked by narrow misses, Satheesan has stood firmly with the Congress, untoched by shifts in its fortunes.
The Congress-led UDF will work to eliminate all forms of communalism, he said.
Satheesan also offered the opposition's support to the government in its fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
The national party's decision is considered as a setback for 65-year-old Chennithala in his five decade long political career.
Although the party had suffered a huge setback in the Assembly polls, Chennithala had never thought that he would be denied the chance to continue in the post of Leader of Opposition.
Party sources said many party veterans including former chief minister Oommen had strongly argued for the continuation of Chennithala in the post of the Leader of Opposition.
But luck did not favour the senior Congress leader this time, despite his unflinching loyalty to the first family of the Congress, ever since he opted for a whole-time political career in early teens as a student activist.
Totally devoted to the Nehru-Gandhi family, Chennithala was rewarded by the party for his hard work and dedication to safeguard the partys interests in Kerala's bipolar polity.
Handpicked by the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Chennithala became All India President of National Students Union of India in 1982.
Later, he also became the national president of the Youth Congress.
His former colleagues in the Youth Congress included West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik. PTI TGB ROH ROH