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End to speculation about Thennala's appointment

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, FEB. 15. The appointment of Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, known for his neutrality in group politics, as chairman of the campaign committee has put an end to the speculation about the central leadership making him election committee chairman as reservations were expressed in certain quarters about P.P. Thankachan holding this charge in his capacity as KPCC acting president.

While Mr. Thankachan's appointment as acting KPCC president was part of the package deal brokered by the central leadership with the Karunakaran faction, no decision has been taken on revoking the suspension of Kodoth Govindan Nair. Mr. Nair was suspended from the party for contesting the Rajya Sabha elections against the official Congress candidate at the senior leader, K. Karunakaran's behest.

Though today's appointments have put a lid on arguably the longest chapter of infighting within the Kerala unit of the Congress, the party's central leadership is well aware of how fragile this peace is. Already, the high command is bracing itself for the inevitable tug of war for seats in the Lok Sabha elections.

Thankachan's priority

Our Staff Reporter writes from Kochi:

Mr. Thankachan today said that the demand for the removal of A.K. Antony from the post of the Chief Minster did not seem to have any relevance now.

Mr. Thankachan told presspersons that everybody should prepare for the coming Lok Sabha elections. He said he did not believe that the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, would raise fresh issues.

Mr. Thankachan said all the leaders in the Congress, irrespective of group loyalties, had suggested his name for the post. He did not regard the post as "a crown of thorns ". He said the outgoing president, K. Muraleedharan, had suggested his name with the full knowledge of Mr. Karunakaran.

Mr. Thankachan said he would give top priority to the preparations for the coming elections. The selection of candidates would be done by the Election Committee. He would take charge on February 17, he added.

`No change in stand'

The Minister for Forests and Sports, K. Sudhakaran, has said that there is no perceptible change in the attitude of the `I' group despite the changes made by the Congress high command.

Speaking to presspersons in Kochi today, he said there were no encouraging signs from the faction leaders as yet. He said the decision of K. Muraleedharan to join the UDF Ministry was a political victory of the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony. Mr. Sudhakaran said he did not think that the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, was not amenable to the proposals of the high command as otherwise he would not have attended the swearing-in ceremony of Mr. Muraleedharan.

He said that candidates for the coming Lok Sabha elections should be selected on basis of their ability and competence, and not on the basis of their group loyalties. The high command held the view that merit should be the criteria for the selection of candidates. In fact, the rank and file of the party favoured such a selection.

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