Debating India

INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

Karunakaran faction floats new party

Monday 2 May 2005, by RAMAVARMAN*T.

Muraleedharan president of National Congress (Indira)

- New party is real Congress cleansed of dirt: Karunakaran

- Party to be pro-poor, pro-farmer

- Organisational polls planned

- Karunakaran regrets neglect of leaders like him by Congress

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H. Vibhu
FOCUS ON FATHER AND SON: Former Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunakaran hands over the flag of the new party, National Congress (Indira), to its president K. Muraleedharan in Thrissur on Sunday.

THRISSUR: The Congress in Kerala split on Sunday with the faction led by senior party leader and MP K. Karunakaran forming a new party, the National Congress (Indira).

The creation of the new party took place at a massive convention held in front of the historic

Sakthan Thampuran Palace here. Mr. Karunakaran’s son and expelled Congress leader K. Muraleedharan was unanimously elected president of the new party. Mr. Karunakaran, who christened the new party, handed over its new flag to Mr. Muraleedharan, who was earlier the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president and a Minister for a brief a period in the State Cabinet headed by A.K. Antony. The new flag is a modified version of the Congress tri-colour, but with a charka and the portrait of the late Indira Gandhi on its middle white portion.

Resolution approved

The convention approved a political resolution calling for a replication of the alliance of the Left forces and the secular and democratic parties, which is now prevailing at the Centre and in the State. The economic resolution adopted at the meeting calls for a pro-poor and pro-farmer economic policy and for the waiver of the debts of farmers. The convention also adopted the abridged version of the constitution of the new party.

In his inaugural speech, Mr. Karunakaran said that he had not actually formed a new party, but had revived the "real Congress," which would be proved after the ensuing local body elections in the State. "It is the real Congress cleansed of all the dirt," he said. He made a scathing attack on Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and vowed to oust him from power.

The nonagenarian leader resolved to follow in the footsteps of the Congress leaders from the Nehru family, including Sonia Gandhi. He reiterated that he was one of those who had persuaded Ms. Gandhi to take the mantle of Congress leadership after the demise of her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, and after the late P.V. Narasimha Rao was ousted.

In carefully selected words he expressed his dismay over the neglect of leaders like him by the party president and the free access given to his rivals who were mostly bitter critics of the late Indira Gandhi.

Mr. Muraleedharan said the party’s immediate priority would be to strengthen it from the grassroots level and install a vibrant leadership at all levels of the party through proper organisational polls.

The split marks a new phase in the long-drawn out factional feuds in the State unit of the Congress in which the loyalists of Karunakaran and his family were pitted against the faction led by Mr. Antony and Mr. Chandy. The formation of the new party is expected to have a far-reaching impact on State politics, as it is likely to lead to a realignment of the political formation here.

The event may have some consequences at the national level in the future if Mr. Karunakaran succeeds in his efforts to tie up with leaders such as NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who had parted from the Congress earlier.

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