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Peace in sight for Kerala Cong

New Delhi, April 21: The Congress high command and the Karunakaran faction in Kerala appeared close to a peace deal as state Congress chief K. Muraleedharan ó K. Karunakaranís son ó met party president Sonia Gandhi today.

Following his meeting with the Congress chief, Muraleedharan expressed the hope that the crisis within the state unit arising over the recent Rajya Sabha elections would be defused soon, probably within a week.

AICC general-secretary in charge of Kerala Ambika Soni, too, virtually ruled out disciplinary action now, though she said it was for the party president to take a decision on this.

Muraleedharan also met Soni before meeting Sonia. Soni, had met Sonia in the forenoon along with the two AICC observers for the Kerala polls ó Ghulam Nabi Azad and R.K. Dhawan ó and apprised her of the latest situation on the Kerala front. They also gave their recommendations on dealing with the situation and maintaining party unity and discipline.

Muraleedharanís meeting with Sonia follows rebel leader Karunakaranís telephonic conversation with her on Saturday morning. This conversation was perceived as an indication of Karunakaranís intention to patch up with the party high command.

The arrival of Karunakaran, a Lok Sabha member, in the capital late tonight has fuelled speculation of a possible meeting between him and the party chief, though he had apparently not sought an appointment with her.

The high command had threatened to initiate strong disciplinary action against Karunakaran and his supporters on Thursday. However, the move was stalled, presumably by Azad and Dhawan, who counselled restraint and an amicable settlement to keep the party united.

With the high command in a mood to forgive the Karunakaran factionís rebellion for the sake of party unity, Muraleedharan today said he does not belong to any faction. He was the leader of the state unit, Muraleedharan asserted. Apparently, Karunakaran is now preparing to press for the revocation of his rebel Rajya Sabha poll nominee K. Govindan Nairís expulsion from the party.

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