The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia readies Kerala pill

New Delhi, April 29: Sonia Gandhi is expected to announce some reconciliatory moves in the next couple of days to contain the bitter factional rivalry witnessed in the Congress in Kerala recently over the Rajya Sabha poll nominations.

The possibility came to the fore today after a meeting between Kerala unit chief K. Muralidharan, Congress general secretary Ambika Soni and the two party observers for the recent polls, Ghulam Nabi Azad and R.K. Dhawan. Muralidharan, who also represents his father K. Karunakaran’s I-group in the state Congress, was specially summoned to the capital for the meeting.

Soon after the meeting, the two observers submitted their “final report” to Sonia. According to Muralidharan, the party chief will announce her decision “any time”, probably tomorrow or the day after.

There has been speculation over the past two days that Sonia might ease out Muralidharan from the Kerala unit top post. But Muralidharan was confident that there would be no crackdown on him or the I-group headed by his father.

“I hope the decision (that the Congress president would announce) will be acceptable to everyone in the party and that it would help find an amicable solution to the problem within the party,” he said.

Asked what problems Sonia was expected to address in her decision, Muralidharan said the foremost hitch was the prevailing air of uncertainty in the state unit because of which neither the party nor the A.K. Antony-led government was functioning properly. Besides, there was also the need to establish proper coordination between the party and the government. Muralidharan is expected to meet Sonia tomorrow.

Sources in the Congress headquarters, too, do not expect Sonia to take any drastic step against the Karunakaran group for its anti-party activity. The high command’s main concern was to strengthen party unity and discipline.

“Any drastic disciplinary action would only create more problems for the party in Kerala,” they said.

Besides receiving the assessment of the observers and the general secretary, Sonia has held separate discussions with chief minister Antony, Karunakaran, Muralidharan and other senior state leaders over the past week on how to deal with the intra-party problem.

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