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Hour of reckoning for Karunakaran's party

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DIC(K) president K. Muraleedharan
DIC(K) president K. Muraleedharan

K. Santhosh

Democratic Indira Congress(Karunakaran) completes a year

Thrissur: On May 1, 2005, addressing tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Thrissur, K. Karunakaran announced the formation of the National Congress Indira. He handed over the party flag to his son K. Muraleedharan and vowed to oust the Oommen Chandy Government.

A year later, Mr. Karunakaran and his party renamed Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran) on August 31, 2005, for registration purposes faces the 12th Assembly elections after having joined hands with the Oommen Chandy-led United Democratic Front.

The DIC(K), like many others of its ilk, has proved that there are no permanent friends or foes in politics. This political truism has been confirmed several times in the long career of DIC(K)'s founder, which began with his association with the Kochi Rajya Praja Mandalam and membership with the Thrissur Municipal Council between 1945 and 1947.

On the eve of the first anniversary of DIC(K), its State president K. Muraleedharan told The Hindu that the party was optimistic about the outcome of the Assembly elections.

"Of the 18 seats where the DIC(K) contested, we are confident of winning at least 12," he said.

Political jigsaw

The DIC(K)'s history is like a game of political jigsaw. On July 5, 2005, nine Indian National Congress legislators resigned from the Kerala Assembly in support of Mr. Karunakaran. They were Sobhana George, Malethu Sarala Devi, Radha Raghavan, P. Sankaran, D. Sugathan, M.A. Chandrasekharan, T.V. Chandramohan, N. D. Appachen and M. P. Gangadharan. As Mr. Karunakaran hinted during the launch of DIC(K), his party became chummy with the Left Democratic Front, especially the Pinarayi faction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The CPI(M)-DIC(K) ties affected the UDF show in the local body elections and the Thiruvananthapuram byelection.

The LDF made a clean sweep of the five Corporation councils and all but one of the 14 district councils. "Do you have any doubts about the strength of K. Karunakaran's party?" Mr. Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI(M) State secretary, asked reporters when the results of local body elections were out.

One party that felt threatened by the developments was the Communist Party of India (CPI), whose candidate, Pannian Raveendran, Mr. Karunakaran claimed to have helped win in the Thiruvananthapuram by-election.

Dealing a blow to Mr. Karunakaran and his supporters, the CPI(M) announced on February 23 its decision to keep the DIC(K) out of LDF. "There is no confusion in the party on the DIC(K) issue," the CPI(M) said.

"We had always wanted to form an alliance that brought the Left and secular forces together. But we were cheated by the LDF," Mr. Murali said.

With Assembly elections round the corner and no electoral understanding in sight, panic spread through the DIC(K). On March 19, Mr. Karunakaran said that he would not return to the Congress even if he were offered the post of Prime Minister. Twenty-four days later, in a dramatic turnaround, the DIC(K) forged an electoral understanding with the Indian National Congress, with the Indian Union Muslim League playing a major role in bringing both the parties together.

"The alliance would help the UDF in the Assembly elections," said Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, who, along with INC emissary M. Veerappa Moily, talked to Mr. Karunakaran and worked out the tie-up.

Ironically, two days earlier, Mr. Oommen Chandy had gone on record saying that Mr. Karunakaran's track-record was poor and he could not be trusted.

Uneasy alliance

Despite claims to the contrary, the DIC(K)-UDF ties have not been smooth. The DIC(K)'s participation in the election campaign of Speaker Therambil Ramakrishnan, the UDF candidate in Thrissur, was minimal. Mr. Karunakaran was hardly seen in the UDF campaign in Thrissur, considered his home turf. The DIC(K) also struggled to handle the controversies over the support to a rebel candidate in Mala, a seat denied to the DIC(K). Mr. Karunakaran and Mr. Muraleedharan have also come out with conflicting statements about the much talked-about DIC(K) merger with INC after the Assembly elections, and UDF's candidate for Chief Ministership. The LDF wasted no time in describing the DIC(K)-UDF tie-up as a marriage of convenience.

Political observers say the major problem faced by the DIC(K) is the confusion among the rank and file over the constant change of political stance. "One works in tandem with LDF in the local body polls. Even before the euphoria is over, one is told that the party has joined UDF. What is the ideological stand of the party?" asked a DIC(K) activist.

On April 12, former DIC(K) vice-president M.A. John described the DIC(K)-UDF alliance as an act of pure opportunism. "Mr. Karunakaran and his son have betrayed the DIC(K) cadres. The new pact was forged with the sole purpose to secure a safe seat for Mr. Muraleedharan. In Wayanad, Radha Raghavan has been made a scapegoat to ensure a sure seat of the Muslim League for Mr. Muraleedharan in Koduvally," Mr. John alleged. Mr. John also announced the formation of the DIC(K) Left Forum.

Mr. Muraleedharan, however, claimed that there was no confusion among the rank and file. "The people of the State know that all the changes the party went through were by force of circumstance."

Asked about DIC(K)'s future course of action if the LDF came to power, Mr. Muraleedharan said the decision would be taken by the party executive after the results were out. "We are part of UDF now. Hence, the decision will be in tune with our current political commitments," he said.

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