The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebels set axe-Antony deadline

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 1: Karunakaran loyalists have issued a virtual ultimatum to the Congress high command seeking the removal of chief minister A.K. Antony by November 19, Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

The group today held a conclave at Karunakaran’s residence — nearly 20 legislators and party office-bearers attended — and said it was no longer possible for them to continue with Antony as chief minister.

“Antony has completely alienated the minorities and the Congress has no future as long as Antony remains in the chair,” said state Congress general secretary Rajmohan Unnithan.

The Karunakaran supporters, who form the ‘I’ group, will undertake a mass campaign in all the districts from October 5 to 12. Later, they will hold rallies at the block-level between October 15 and 30. On November 19, the group will organise a state-level rally at Kochi.

They expect the high command to act favourably on their demand before the rally. But if it does not, the group will chart the next course of action.

The ‘I’ group’s deadline of November 19 is a pressure tactic since it expects that with Assembly elections due in four Congress-ruled states, Sonia Gandhi would want to avoid further problems within the party and might grant maximum concessions. Whether or not she concedes the main demand, the group believes that the timing would yield them the best bargain.

In retaliation, the Antony camp has decided not to associate with state party chief K. Muraleedharan for “having aided in the defeat of the Congress candidate in Ernakulam and thus violated the party discipline”.

“Though we have not issued any ultimatum to the high command, as disciplined workers of the party we would urge the high command to remove the current state president,” said party general secretary Benny Behnan.

CPM politburo member Prakash Karat told newsmen in Delhi that the party central committee had directed the state committee to take whatever decision was necessary to see that the Antony government was brought down. Without specifying whether the CPM would help Karunakaran unseat Antony, Karat said the party would not prop up a government that fell under its own weight. The party would back any move to dislodge Antony “who was hand-in-glove with communal forces”, he added.

But in Thiruvananthapuram, Opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan said Karunakaran should not expect the Left parties to support a post-Antony alternative that included communal forces.

He clarified that the Indian Union Muslim League, the BJP and other “religious and fundamentalist” outfits should not be part of the new mechanism.

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