Thiruvananthapuram, Sept. 24: Dissident leader K. Karunakaran’s use of the term “bastard” against arch foe A.K. Antony appears to have boomeranged, going by the high voter turnout in yesterday’s Ernakulam by-election.
One theory explaining the 67.05 per cent turnout is that Kochinites came out in droves to express themselves against Karunakaran’s poll-eve rubbishing of the chief minister. The campaign had otherwise been lacklustre, with no major issues being debated.
Karunakaran fired the stinger at a press meet at daughter Padmaja Venugopal’s Kochi residence on Monday. In reply to Antony’s charge the previous day that those who opposed him lacked morality, the angry leader retorted: “Antony has never been a steady person. Both his public and private life has been shorn of any morality… He had ditched the late Indiraji, supped and slept with the Marxists… scoffed at bishops and community leaders only to go knocking at their doors in time of need. And if this is not the sign of a bastard, what is'”
Antony refused to be drawn into a row: “Neither my parents nor my teachers had schooled me in such language. I am unable to pay back in the same coin. I will rather not reply to this at all.”
Karunakaran later sought to wriggle out of the “fatherless” controversy, saying he had been quoted out of context. “I have never called him that word and I’ll never do that,” he told newsmen. But Antony’s supporters were ready with the visual and audio evidence to be presented before the high command.
The diatribe over, the factions ranged against Karunakaran in the state Congress unit have drawn up a list of those to be axed for working against the official candidate, M.. John, in the by-election.
Congress general secretary Ahmad Patel has reportedly apprised party president Sonia Gandhi of the open canvassing against John by Karunakaran’s men. Now it is only a question of days before the long-pending disciplinary action comes, either before the counting of votes on September 29 or soon after.
On the chopping block is Karunakaran’s son and state Congress chief K. Muraleedharan. The high command might not proceed against Karunakaran himself. The tactic would be to guillotine his favourites, reducing him to a helpless onlooker.
Karunakaran and his son have sensed the danger and issued brave statements, saying they would not sit idle if one-sided action were taken against their supporters.
The CPM, which supported Karunakaran during the poll campaign for tactical reasons, might not be able to come to his aid. “The defeat of Dr Sebastian Paul, the Left candidate, would sound the death-knell of Karunakaran politically,” said former chief minister E.K. Nayanar yesterday in Thrissur. Four times chief minister, a member of the Kerala Assembly for nearly four decades and now a member of Parliament, Karunakaran used to be called the Bhishmacharya of Kerala politics. With the high command’s patience running out, Karunakaran might well have to invent new tactics to avert an end to his political career.