Debating India

KERALA

Unfortunate, but not unexpected"

Monday 2 May 2005

Special Correspondent

No vertical split, says Balakrishna Pillai The view within the Congress is that it will be difficult for the new outfit to strike an alliance with the Left parties without alienating the Congress members who have chosen to go with it.

NEW DELHI: The Congress has decided to adopt a cautious approach to the split in its Kerala unit. Party leaders like Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni and Anand Sharma described the development as "unfortunate" but "not unexpected." They said the former Chief Minister, K. Karunakaran, was a "senior Congress leader" and that they were saddened he had taken this step.

Mr. Patel, general secretary in-charge of Kerala, told The Hindu that he spoke to Mr. Karunakaran twice on Saturday to dissuade him from taking such a step.

However, when the party expelled Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief, K. Muraleedharan [Mr. Karunakaran’s son], for anti-party activities last month, something like this was expected, he said.

`Organisational elections will take place’

KPCC president Thennala Balakrishna Pillai said he met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday to apprise her of the possible fallout and he would meet Mr. Patel here on Monday.

The message from the central leadership is that the organisational elections in the State will take place, although they will be delayed, as the names of those who participated in the rebel convention "would be deleted." The party high command is trying to ascertain how many MLAs and office-bearers at the district and State levels attended the convention.

"No vertical split"

"My information is that only seven MLAs attended the convention," Mr. Pillai said, adding that the State legislature party would decide their fate. Claiming that there was "no vertical split" in the party, he said most MLAs and office-bearers would stay with the main party. "Of the 14 district Congress presidents, only the one in Thiruvananthapuram has gone with the Karunakaran faction."

The larger view emerging within the party is that it will be difficult for the new outfit - as hinted by it - to strike an alliance with the Left parties without alienating the Congress members who have chosen to go with it. Congressmen have fought against the Left for decades, one leader pointed out. At the same time, the party is aware that the Assembly elections are due in a year and it would have put its house in order.

Mr. Patel feels that the parting of ways is better for the Congress as this will ensure there is no sabotage from within.

He had blamed internal disunity for the rout in Kerala in the Lok Sabha elections last May.

Better for the party

Party sources said the high command intervened on two occasions in the last three years to ensure there was no split. The first instance was after the Karunakaran faction put up its candidate for the Rajya Sabha election against the party nominee and then accommodated his son in the State cabinet.

The second was before the Lok Sabha election last year when it forced the two warring factions to smoke the peace pipe, but that did not prevent a rout.

Mr. Karunakaran had earlier announced that he would resign his Rajya Sabha seat once a new outfit was floated, but till late this evening there was no word on this.

The party high command would prefer to wait for the resignation before it takes the step of expelling him as that could help him retain the seat.

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