The crisis in the Congress, following the resignation of senior leader K Karunakaran deepened on Sunday, with rival factions rejecting any reconciliatory moves and hardening demands on the eve of the assembly elections in Kerala.
Karunakaran, who resigned from the Congress Working Committee on Saturday, refused to entertain the party high command's request for any compromise till his demands were met. The former chief minister quit the CWC, alleging discrimination and neglect by party president Sonia Gandhi and his rival in state politics A K Antony.
Karunakaran's demands include allocation of seven more seats for his faction leaders, besides his daughter Padmaja Venugopal, and coronation of his son and member of Parliament K Muraleedharan as president of the Kerala Congress Pradesh Committee.
The senior-most Congress leader from the state is also insisting that Antony not be projected as chief ministerial candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, that is fighting the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala.
Congress leaders said that Ghulam Nabi Azad, party general secretary in-charge of Kerala, tried to talk to Karunakaran many times on Sunday to defuse the crisis. But the veteran Congress leader stuck to his guns, demanding that justice be done to soothen party workers in the state.
That Karunakaran has made up his mind to take the party high command and the Antony faction head-on became clear when his supporters took out protest marches across the state on Sunday, abusing Sonia and Antony.
Karunakaran's son and Muraleedharan went a step further, asserting that the 'I Group', by which name the Karunakaran faction is known in the state, "is not interested in the party high command's intervention to settle the crisis."
"There is absolutely no question of either Karunakaran or me or any of our supporters seeking Sonia Gandhi's help and intervention to resolve the crisis because we have not created it. The crisis has been deliberately created by opponents, to tarnish my father's image and standing in the party," Muraleedharan told rediff.com.
He accused the party leadership of "remaining a mute spectator" for two weeks when factional wars in the state unit have been building up. "We are seeking justice because our party workers have been discriminated against and unknown and weak candidates have been fielded in some constituencies in the state," Muraleedharan said.
He warned that the Karunakaran faction would not hesitate "to take drastic steps" if the party leadership did not solve the crisis immediately.
That the Karunakaran faction means business became clear on Sunday when it decided to field Sarala Devi from Aranmula constituency against the Congress' official candidate Sivadasan.
Just a month to go for elections, and Karunarakan's rebellion has left the Congress in the doldrums. It is not Karunakaran alone that is giving increasing headaches to the party faction led by Antony, considered to have the blessings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Another high profile Congress rebel, Cherian Philip, came out against the Antony group, declaring that he would contest as an independent with the Marxists' support from Puthuppally constituency. Former finance minister and Antony's close friend Oommen Chandy is the official Congress candidate from Puthuppally.
The banner of revolt that Karunakaran has created is unlikely to subside in the coming days. With other faction leaders becoming belligerent with "the family rule" that Karunakaran wants to cultivate in the party, the crisis in the Congress is all set to affect the United Democratic Front at the hustings.
UNI adds: The All India Congress Committee Sunday declined to accept the resignation of Karunakaran.
Azad made it clear in New Delhi that there was no question of accepting his resignation.
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