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|January 8, 1998||
All are happy in Kerala 'cos Sonia is campaigning
D Jose in Trivandrum
Veteran Congressman Kunnoth Karunakaran and his estranged colleague A K Antony are ecstatic.
Kerala Chief Minister E K Nayanar and Bharatiya Janata Party state chief K Sreedharan are happy.
And the Church, oh, yes, that powerful organisation behind the sizeable Christian votebank in Kerala, it is very, very interested.
All because of a well-flogged horse. To wit, Sonia Gandhi's decision to campaign for the Congress.
"This (madame's entry) is a befitting reply to the BJP's false propaganda that the Congress is disintegrating," said Karunakaran, who has flown many a time to Delhi for the explicit purpose of repeating his colleagues's Sonia-Save-The-Party call, "I am ready to bet that the Congress will return to power!"
Antony, who is the state Opposition leader and a Congress Working Committee member, is a bit more restrained -- and cliched -- in his enthusiasm.
"The decision is timely," he commented, "It will lift the morale of the party's rank and file."
Both Antony and Karunakaran are backed in their opinion by G Karthikeyan, leader of the third Congress group in Kerala, and Thampanoor Ravi, an enthusiastic Antony-supporter. Let's hear what they have to say.
Karthikeyan: "The decision will enthuse the Congress workers throughout the country.''
Ravi: "The development will usher in unity in the party..."
So much for the Congress views. Shall we now see why the Left Democratic Front is at peace, nay, downright happy, at 10 Janpath's plans?
Both Nayanar and Sreedharan sincerely believe -- or claim to believe -- that the lady can do only harm to the Congress. And hence, their wide grins.
Nayanar: "Sonia will only hasten the destruction of the party."
Sreedharan: "Her entry into the sinking Congress will provide the BJP an opportunity to exposes the dubious deals indulged in by the Rajiv (Gandhi) family. I hope the voters will think twice before voting for such a party."
Meanwhile, the Church, which influences politics in Kerala in a great way, is keeping a keen eye on the Sonia factor. Though officially tight-lipped on the matter, a senior leader unwound himself to give a little insight.
"The regional parties which are hobnobbing with the BJP hoping that it will form a government will now think twice before jumping onto their (BJP's) wagon," he said.
But political analysts, who predict that Sonia would cut both ways for the Congress, do not agree.
"There will certainly be a Hindu consolidation in favour of the BJP," said a leading analyst, "if the entry triggers support in favour of the Congress."
And thus rests the matter in the south Indian state.
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