The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Antony ouster storm loses force

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 31: The pincer movement by the Left and the K. Karunakaran faction to unseat A.K. Antony has slowed down — the 70 MLAs required to unseat the chief minister in the 140-member Assembly are proving hard to get.

Antony has received a further boost with the Nair Service Society general secretary, P.K. Narayana Panicker, saying he will join efforts to prevent the chief minister’s ouster. The progressive Nairs enjoy considerable political clout, especially in central Kerala, where they enforce their writ through grassroots units called karayogams.

The Society’s support, ahead of the December 1 Assembly byelection in Tiruvalla, is most comforting for Antony for his woes have increased manifold since the last bypoll in the state. His “handpicked” candidate was defeated by a Left-backed Independent in September’s Ernakakulam Lok Sabha bypoll, sparking calls for his ouster.

Support has also come Antony’s way from the Ezhava outfit, Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam. The two influential communities, which traditionally maintain an equal distance from Kerala’s two major political fronts, have announced their backing for the chief minister at a time when his own allies in the United Democratic Front are ambivalent on the leadership issue.

It isn’t all smooth sailing for Antony though. The Opposition Left Democratic Front today came out strongly in support of Karunakaran, electing to meet Governor Sikander Bakht to urge him to convene the Assembly. It wants to move a motion to remove Speaker Vakkom Purushothaman, who is identified with the Antony camp.

A Left delegation had asked the chief minister yesterday to hold an Assembly session. Raj Bhavan sources say Bakht is busy until Monday and the Left will meet him only late next week.

Antony lieutenant and UDF convener Oommen Chandy today challenged the Left to place their cards before Bakht. “Instead of knocking at the doors of the chief minister and the Speaker, they should take their case to the Governor. Show him 70 MLAs and he will have to call the House,” Chandy said.

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