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Kerala ally against Antony

New Delhi, July 16: Kerala chief minister A.K. Antony’s “anti-minority” statement last week has landed him in a spot.

The Indian Union Muslim League, the Congress’ most powerful partner in the ruling United Democratic Front, told Congress chief Sonia Gandhi that unless Antony made amends to soothe the “wounded sentiments” of the community, “we cannot continue in the present way”.

League general secretary and parliamentarian E. Ahmed and the senior-most representative of the party in the Antony ministry, P.K. Kunhalikutty, met Sonia for an hour here today and listed their complaints against Antony’s conduct in recent months.

League sources said the party’s “disappointment” with Antony was not limited to his recent statement that the minority communities were using their collective bargaining power and money to the disadvantage of the majority community.

The two leaders also complained about Antony’s tolerant attitude towards the VHP’s trishul distribution programme in Kerala, where Praveen Togadia had reportedly made a highly provocative anti-Muslim speech.

Antony sought to assuage minority sentiments. “I did not mean to attack or hurt the feelings of anybody with my remarks on the minorities. I made the statement as a public servant after observing the changes...in the state in the last five decades,” he said.

They equally disapproved of the chief minister’s alleged unhelpful position on the question of the return of a large number of Muslim refugees to their homes in Malad. Muslim families had fled their homes in the wake of the recent communal clashes there and are currently living in refugee camps. They added that Antony was also not providing relief material to the camps.

Replying to queries from reporters after the meeting, Ahmed merely said: “We have discussed all issues arising out of the chief minister’s statement as well as other issues.” He declined to elaborate, but added that the issue was serious as the “Muslim community and the people of Kerala working in the Gulf were deeply hurt and angry with the chief minister’s statement”.

Asked whether the party would seek a change in the UDF leadership, Ahmed said his party would not interfere in the internal affairs of the Congress. He hoped Sonia would prevail upon her chief minister to repair the damage, which, he said, was more severe that the one inflicted upon the Muslim community in the state when the Babri Masjid was demolished. The party would take stock of the political situation at a scheduled meeting of the party secretariat at Kozhikode next Monday, he said.

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