Girish Menon

Congress, KC(M) stick to their stance

Mani opposes move to include merger on the agenda

KPCC firm on discussion in

the UDF

Thiruvananthapuram: The attempts of United Democratic Front leaders to settle the row over the Kerala Congress merger appears to be heading nowhere, with the Congress and the Kerala Congress (M) continuing to stick to its respective positions.

As a result, the prospects of convening a UDF high power committee meeting seem to be remote as the leaders have not been able to agree on the agenda for discussion.

Mr. Mani has reportedly opposed the move to include the merger issue on the agenda. He informed the UDF leaders that he had no opposition to convening the meeting but there was no question of discussing the merger issue as it was an internal matter of his party.

A Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee leadership meeting had passed a resolution recently stating that the merger should be discussed in the UDF. The other coalition partners have also expressed similar opinions.

KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala, addressing a press conference in Thrissur, said the party had not changed its stance since passing a resolution at its leadership meeting. Reacting to the Congress leaders' stand, a Kerala Congress (M) leader said the UDF meeting would materialise once the Congress leadership accepted Mr. Mani's stand.

According to Congress sources, the party leaders may hold a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Mani to sort the row at the earliest. The Indian Union Muslim League, which is reluctant to play the role of a mediator, has suggested that the leaders of the two parties hold direct talks and sort out issues. But there is no word when this meeting will be held.

Even while opposing the merger move, Mr. Chennithala and Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy could hardly resist the urge to criticise the government for trying to corner the former Minister for Public Works P.J. Joseph on charges of irregularities in implementing a few public works projects.

Mr. Chennithala said the government move to order a probe against Mr.Joseph was politically motivated. The LDF did not take any action during the last four years against Mr. Joseph and initiated the move only after he quit the Cabinet and the ruling front, he said. Mr. Chandy said the government should be ready to conduct probe against allegations of corruption against the other Ministers as well. The probe against Mr. Joseph was politically motivated, he added.

In the meantime, P.C. Thomas, chairman of the splinter group of the Kerala Congress, which is part of the LDF now, said his objective was to revive his party's fortune by working for the farmers, poor, minorities, Dalits and backward classes.

He said in a statement here that the Election Commission had reduced a six-year ban to three years on the basis of his submission about the all-round work he had done as an MP for the general good of his constituency, irrespective of their caste, creed or community.

He said he firmly believed that the ban period was reduced as the Election Commission was convinced about his position.