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Exodus from `I' group continues

Special Correspondent

E.M. Augusthy explains reasons for parting ways

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Karunakaran faction in the Congress suffered yet another setback with the Peerumadu MLA, E. M. Augusthy, announcing his decision to dissociate himself from moves to split the party.

Mr. Augusthy told The Hindu today that he had informed the veteran Congress leader K. Karunakaran, quite early in the day of his differences in splitting the party. He said that he had always made it clear that he would stand by Mr. Karunakaran as long as he continued his fight within the party. He had also made it clear that he would be prepared to quit as MLA if Mr. Karunakaran wanted it. Now that the split had become a fait accompli, he would stay put in the Congress under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, he said.

Mr. Augusthy said that he, along with his colleagues, P. Sankaran and V. S. Sivakumar, made attempts to bring about a settlement and had even met A. K. Antony in this connection. He had participated in the Ernakulam rally on March 21 on the basis of the fact that there would be no split in the party, he added.

Mr. Augusthy said that it was with great pain that he was parting ways with Mr. Karunakaran. The split, he said, would certainly weaken the party.

In the meantime, the former `I' group leaders met here on Thursday and appealed to Mr. Karunakaran to give up his moves in the interests of the party he had served for 75 years. The meeting decided to convene a larger convention of all `I' group leaders in Ernakulam on May 3.

In an unsigned statement, the leaders said that they had criticised the Government and the party leadership on several occasions in the past. It was also true that it had strengthened factional activities and led to shows of strength. But in the end, the word of the party high command had been final and sectional interests had always been set aside to uphold the larger interests of the Congress, the statement said.

Even though Mr. Karunakaran had unequivocally stated that he would remain in the Congress till his last breath, it is clear that the current moves to split the party had his blessings.

The statement condemned all moves to weaken the party on the eve of the local bodies and State Assembly elections. It said Mr. Karunakaran's attempts to sacrifice thousands of `I' group workers were just to further Mr. Muraleedharan's interest.

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