Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala was today elected as Congress Legislature Party Leader and will be the Opposition Leader in Kerala Assembly.
It was announced after a CLP meeting here which stretched for several hours. The meeting was attended by former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as representative of the central leadership. She also held one on one meeting with all the 22 party MLAs.
Chennithala's election was "unanimous". AICC chief Sonia Gandhi has approved the decision, Dikshit said at a press conference.
Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he proposed the name of Chennithala and three other MLAs supported him. IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty would be the Deputy Leader of UDF in the House, he said.
59-year-old Chennithala began his political career as a leader of party students' wing KSU in 1970s. He is a former KPCC chief and held the Home portfolio in Chandy government. A prodigy of veteran Congress leader and former Chief Minister K Karunakaran, Chennithala scripted history by becoming the youngest minister in the state at the age of 28 in 1986 in the then Karunakaran ministry.
He also served as president of the national Youth Congress in 1990 and became a known face of the Congress at state and national levels. After becoming the joint secretary of AICC, he went on to be appointed as KPCC chief during 2006-14.
He later joined the UDF ministry led by Ommen Chandy on January 1, 2014 and held the Home portfolio.
Chennithala, a four-time member of Parliament and member of Legislative Assembly, said the new position was a challenging task as Congress is not in power both in the state and at the Centre.
He expressed confidence that he would be able to bring Congress back to its past glory.
He won the May 16 assembly polls from his home constituency Haripad with a margin of 18,621 votes.
The election of Chennithala as the CLP leader assumes significance as he replaces Ommen Chandy, who had expressed reservation over taking the post in the wake of party debacle in the Assembly polls.
Political observers also pointed out that elevation of Chennithala, belonging to forward Hindu Nair community,is also with an eye on to challenge the growth of BJP in the state.
Congress-led UDF has 47 MLAs in the 140-member assembly.
The lead partner has 22 MLAs while IUML 18, KC(M) 6 and KC(J) 1.
The ruling LDF has 91 MLAs. One seat was won by BJP and another by independent.