D Jose and George Iype
Factional squabbles in the Congress in Kerala took a disastrous turn with
the veteran party leader K Karunakaran quitting the Congress Working
Committee in protest against the denial of a seat to his daughter Padmaja
Venugopal for the forthcoming assembly elections.
Karunakaran, who is a permanent invitee to the working committee,
resigned his post in protest against the neglect of his group, especially
his daughter Padmaja Venugopal, in the selection of candidates for the
forthcoming assembly polls in Kerala.
The senior Congress leader told newsmen in Trivandrum on Saturday that he would not
withdraw the resignation under any grounds. Karunakaran had penned the
resignation letter before he left Delhi on Friday after the six-day drama
over the selection of candidates for the 88 seats allotted to his party by
the Central Election Committee and given it to his aides for submitting to
party president Sonia Gandhi.
After the party high command cleared the final Congress list on Friday,
the Karunakaran faction complained that the Antony faction has been given
undue advantage in the list. While Karunakaran's
loyalists had to settle with 34 seats, the Antony group got 40.
Karunakaran said he would decide his future of course action in
consultation with his supporters and added that his future strategy
would not be discussed with the media.
He said his primary objective was to ensure that the Communist Party of
India-Marxist-led United Democratic Front would not return to power and
the UDF is not defeated in the election. "I would not quit the Congress.
Goodwill towards the party is my weakness," Karunakaran said.
However, he pointed out that his future endeavour would be for the benefit
of the state. "There should not be another chief minister worse than E K
Nayanar," he added, obliquely referring to his bete noire A K Antony's claim
for chief ministership.
Karunakaran gave sufficient indication that he would muster
forces against Antony. He said Antony was one of his foes in the
election and added that he cannot expect to emerge as the leader in the
event of UDF getting majority. "The elected members would select the chief
minister," Karunakaran said.
Holding Antony squarely responsible for the present crisis in the
Party, he said, "He could have defused the situation if he had pressed for the
party ticket to Padmaja. He has not done it despite an overwhelming demand
from the people in her proposed constituency at Chalakkudy."
The senior Congress leader said his entire group was neglected in the
candidates' election. "Most of the district Congress committee presidents
supporting me have been given the ticket. They have done all these things
under the pretext of norms. However, they have violated all norms in
denying adequate representation to women and youths," he said.
Karunakaran said his supporters were angry with the developments
and warned that he would not be responsible if they react against it in
The senior Congress leader said the neglect he has suffered was the
most painful experience he had in his 68 years of political career. "I was
being neglected for the past five years. They have turned down all my proposals,
including reorganisation of the Youth Congress," he added.
He said he had relinquished the CM's post in 1995 despite having a
clear majority. "This was due to my love towards the party. I have stood
with the party in its times of trial. Those who deserted the party when
Indira Gandhi was jailed have been regarded. This is too much," he said.
Karunakaran's close loyalist and member of Parliament from Trivandrum V S
Shivakumar told rediff.com that the group will chart its future course of
action in a day or two. "Karunakaran is pained that the party high command
has neglected his supporters in the state on the advice of the followers
of A K Antony. How can there be unity in the party when the senior
Congress leader from the state is shabbily treated," Shivakumar asked.
With the long-standing Karunakaran-Antony feud taking unexpected turns on
the eve of the state elections, many in the party believe the Congress high command
will soon have to press the panic button to face the elections united.
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