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Kerala chief minister Antony quits

August 29, 2004 19:03 IST
Last Updated: August 29, 2004 21:38 IST

In a surprise development, Kerala Chief Minister A K Antony resigned on Sunday after more than three turbulent years in office, marked by intense factionalism in the ruling Congress, spearheaded by veteran leader K Karunakaran and its total rout in the Lok Sabha elections.

"I am resigning from chief ministership. The United Democratic Front (led by Congress) had to face severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. There may be several reasons for it but as a person who led the UDF I am taking responsibility for it," he told reporters after a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sixty-three year-old Antony, who quit as Chief Minister for a second time in his career, said Gandhi accepted his resignation.

Antony, who had succeeded Karunakaran after the latter's ignominious exit in the wake of the Emergency, had quit in 1978 when there was a split in the Congress and he had associated with the faction led by late Devraj Urs.

Though Antony's exit could not be considered a surprise, in view of the continuous sniping at him by his rivals in the Congress, the timing stunned even his opponents.

"Today when I met the Congress president before she left (for Delhi after some engagements in Kollam), I asked her to end this uncertainty once and for all. I requested her to allow me to quit and she gave her the nod," Antony, known for his Spartan style, said.

The Congress Legislature Party is meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday to elect Antony's successor amidst speculation that UDF convenor Oomen Chandy and senior leader Vayalar Ravi are in the race.

Party sources also do not rule out senior leader and former minister Aryadan Mohammed emerging as the dark horse.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress general secretary Margaret Alva will be in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday as observers to CLP meeting.

Sonia Gandhi's political secretary, Ahmed Patel, and another general secretary, Anil

Shastri, are already in the Kerala capital.

Karunakaran, who ran a virtually non-stop campaign for Antony's ouster, complimented him tongue-in-cheek saying, "At least Antony conceded. It's a good thing. It's a service he has done to the state."

Antony, who came to power riding an anti-Left wave in the May 2001 assembly elections, often made, what his supporters felt, compromises with the rival faction in the Congress, which only whetted its appetite.

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