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Rajya Sabha poll revolt rocks Cong in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, April 3: The father-son tussle in Kerala’s ruling Congress has brought the party to the brink with K. Karunakaran putting up a rebel candidate for Rajya Sabha seats from the state and his son K. Muraleedharan reportedly resigning as state unit chief.

Muraleedharan took the step to protest party chief Sonia Gandhi’s nomination of Vayalar Ravi, AICC general secretary, and Thennal Balakrishna Pillai, a former state president, overlooking his candidate P. Chacko.

The son and the father had other nominees in mind, who were shot down by the high command. The official list of the state Congress included Ravi, Chacko and K. Govindan Nair. While Muraleedharan backed Chacko, a former MP and Karunakaran’s bete noire, the former chief minister pushed for Govindan Nair, an old loyalist.

The father-son duo is still not on the same side of the fence, but both are now opposing the Congress leadership.

The high command, however, denied any knowledge of Muraleedharan’s resignation. “We have not received any letter of resignation from Muraleedharanji,” AICC general secretary in charge of Kerala Ambika Soni said in Delhi late this evening. Muraleedharan, she said, had agreed to abide by Sonia’s decision when he met her a couple of days ago.

Karunakaran, feeling slighted by the leadership’s decision, not only put up a rebel candidate after a meeting of his faction late this evening, but also managed to get three of his loyalist ministers to resign.

K.V. Thomas, P. Sankaran and K. Sivadasan submitted their resignations to Karunakaran, instead of chief minister Antony. The faction felt Antony was party to Sonia’s decision.

Earlier, Sonia said in Delhi she hoped the veteran leader would not “let the party down” at a time when it is confronting “communal forces head on”.

Muraleedharan and Antony, however, felt the standoff would be resolved by April 7, the last day for withdrawal of nominations.

If rebel candidates are not put up, the Congress is certain to win both the Rajya Sabha seats. The third seat from the state will go to CPM’s S. Chandran Pillai.

An unhappy Muraleedharan reportedly submitted his resignation to Sonia through a special messenger. He is said to have expressed his displeasure at the party’s announcement of nominees without consulting him though he was earlier asked for a list of prospective candidates.

Sonia is said to have opted for Pillai after Karunakaran insisted Chacko should not get a seat. “I fully agree with the decision of the (party) president. But if that was the case, they need not have asked me to submit a list,” said a crestfallen Muraleedharan.

Ever since Muraleedharan took over as state Congress chief, he has been at loggerheads with father Karunakaran. The main reason is Karunakaran’s projection of daughter Padmaja as his real successor.

Karunakaran was also upset with Muraleedharan’s support for Antony, the veteran leader’s long-time rival in the state.

There was hectic activity today in the Karunakaran home as it was the death anniversary of the octogenarian leader’s wife. Almost all ministers came to meet the leader, with the prominent exception of Antony.

According to Antony’s aides, the chief minister is unfazed by the developments. He is said to be confident of convincing Muraleedharan to toe the party leadership’s line.

Meanwhile, the ruling United Democratic Front –- led by the Congress –- is waiting and watching the unhappy developments in the major coalition partner.

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