The central leadership of the Congress is worried about the political repercussions of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front's demand in Kerala that a fresh investigation be conducted into the 17-year-old Suryanelli rape case, especially into the alleged role of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien.
Senior Congress sources told The Hindu that the party was waiting and watching the situation. To a question whether Mr. Kurien might be asked to step down until after he is cleared of the charges, the sources said unless charges were brought, nothing could be done.
However, with reports suggesting that the rape victim — who has maintained her accusations against Mr. Kurien all these years — is likely to file a writ petition soon in the Kerala High Court, specifically naming him, things could get sticky for him. Already, Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, who earlier defended Mr. Kurien publicly, changed his tune on Wednesday under Opposition pressure, saying a re-investigation could not be ruled out and that the law must take its course.
In his defence, Mr. Kurien has said he has been cleared by both the High Court and the Supreme Court, and that this new demand is being instigated by his political rivals inside and outside his party. Whatever the truth, Kerala is currently in the throes of a political storm that bodes ill for the Congress and Mr. Kurien.
Officially, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi took shelter behind the “sub judice” argument: “Let us wait for the order. The government is bound to follow what is in the order,” he said, when pressed to come out with the party’s position on Mr. Kurien, now that fresh revelations in the case had surfaced. That was an odd response, given that currently Mr. Kurien’s name does not figure in any pending case in court.
The Congress clearly needs to resolve the matter before Parliament opens on February 21
Curiously, the principal Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has not yet joined the chorus of accusations against Mr. Kurien: the reason, Congress sources say, is that Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley was Mr. Kurien’s lawyer in the case.