Monday, Oct 06, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
This has apparently been communicated to the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president, K. Muraleedharan, over the past 24 hours by various party leaders in separate meetings with him. Though Mr. Muraleedharan refused to state whether he had sought a leadership change, he admitted to having told these leaders that the Congress would find it difficult to win an election and regain the confidence of minorities under the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony.
Soon after reaching the capital on Saturday evening, Mr. Muraleedharan had a two-hour-long discussion with the AICC in-charge of Kerala, Ahmed Patel, which went on till 2 a.m.
This was followed up today with separate meetings with Manmohan Singh and two members of the three-member Disciplinary Action Committee (DAC) set up to look into allegations of anti-party activities in the Ernakulam by-election, L.P. Shahi and R.K. Dhawan. In all these meetings, the KPCC president was accompanied by P.C. Chacko.
Apparently, the refrain of the KPCC president at all these meetings was that the only solution to the problems confronting the State unit of the Congress was a leadership change. Asked to come to the capital for talks, Mr. Muraleedharan was non-committal about whether the decision of the high command would be acceptable. ``Let the decision come,'' he said while categorically stating that piece-meal measures would no longer suffice. ``A permanent solution is needed.''
Holding the Chief Minister squarely responsible for the disaffection of the minorities with the Congress and the Ernakulam by-poll rout, Mr. Muraleedharan maintained that while some Congress workers had not associated themselves with the campaign, no one within the State unit had campaigned against the official candidate, M.O. John.
As to whether he as KPCC president was not equally responsible for the Congress defeat, Mr. Muraleedharan answered in the negative, stating that he had from the very beginning told the party's Central leadership that Mr. John would be defeated.
``So, it is those who hijacked this election who should be held responsible.''
While the DAC will meet for the first time on Monday evening after which it will visit Kerala to hear others in the picture, the Political Affairs Committee of the party met informally on Friday evening to discuss the by-poll debacle in Ernakulam and Solapur.
With another Assembly by-election round the corner in Kerala and the nation headed for a Lok Sabha election, the tough posturing by the Karunakaran faction has become a major cause for concern for a leadership caught between the devil and the deep sea.
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