Belying all speculation in the last few days, Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, MP, was yesterday named as the president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).

For the soft-spoken, mild-mannered Thennala, who was bundled out as the KPCC chief in 2001 at the behest of veteran party leader K. Karunakaran and his son K. Muraleedharan, it is a moment of sweet revenge.

His ouster facilitated Muraleedharan's emergence as the KPCC president. He bounces back at a time the Karunakaran family is smarting under the impact of humiliating poll debacle.
Party sources here also announced that according to the high command decision disclosed in New Delhi, A.C. Jose, MP, would be the Vice-President.

Mullappally Ramachandran, C.P. Mohammed and Kodikunnil Suresh would be the new general secretaries.

The high command also announced the names of seven permanent invitees to the Executive Committee of the KPCC. They were Chief Minister A.K Antony, Vayalar Ravi, Oommen Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, P.P. Thankachan, K. Karunakaran and K. Muraleedharan. C. N. Balakrishnan would be the KPCC Treasurer.

Though several names including those of Ramesh Chennithala, V.M. Sudheeran and Kodikunnil Suresh were in the air for the post of KPCC chief and the 'I' group led by Karunakran had been pressuring party leaders here and in New Delhi for the retention of P.P. Thankachan as the Acting KPCC chief, the high command chose Thennala, who is generally seen as a rare party leader without group labels.

In a swift reaction, Muraleedharan sought to know why Thankachan had to be replaced. Karunakaran said that the reorganisation was not taking into account of the popular sentiments. The list of office-bearers show that the 'A' group has an upper hand.

It is highly doubtful of the reorganisation that seeks to end the group war would achieve its aim. Though the 'A' group overshadows the 'I' group some top 'A' group leaders are upset over the high command selection.

The 'third' and 'fourth' groups are also crestfallen that they had been sidelined. The high command also announced yesterday that the Kerala cabinet would be reshuffled after the budget session of the State Assembly.

Antony, who returned here yesterday after four rounds of discussions with Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Delhi regarding the causes for the party's defeat in Kerala in the Lok Sabha polls, yesterday defended the manner of his handling of the Home portfolio.

He said that it was wrong to blame the police alone for the Congress debacle in the polls.
Antony's remarks comes a day after the two-day meeting of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) Working Committee which criticised the police policy. The Home Department comes under Antony.