Today's Paper

Cong. expels rebel candidate

NEW DELHI APRIL 9. In a bid to send out a strong message to the Karunakaran faction of its Kerala unit, the Congress today decided to expel the Kasaragod District Congress Committee president, Kodoth Govindan Nair, from the party for six years for "refusing to withdraw" from the Rajya Sabha elections from the State, despite the party president, Sonia Gandhi, asking him to do so.

The decision was taken after the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran's refusal to withdraw Mr. Nair from the contest which had kicked up a storm within the party unit. However, there is no move as of now to rein in or issue a show cause notice to Mr. Karunakaran for triggering the crisis.

Even as the State PCC president, K. Muraleedharan, told presspersons that the expulsion decision had been taken by Ms. Gandhi, senior leaders maintained that the Congress president had left it to the two general secretaries — Ambika Soni, in-charge of the State, and Oscar Fernandes who is responsible for organisational matters — and the KPCC president.

The expulsion order issued by Mr. Muraleedharan said the disciplinary action was being taken according to the party constitution. Mr. Muraleedharan has also written to all party MLAs, directing them to vote for the official candidates, Vayalar Ravi and T. Balakrishna Pillai.

Soon after issuing the letters, Mr. Muraleedharan spoke to Mr. Karunakaran and Mr. Nair. With Mr. Karunakaran sticking to his guns, Mr. Nair told the KPCC president that he would obey the senior leader's directions.

That he had reservations about resorting to disciplinary action was something Mr. Muraleedharan did not try to hide. "I cautioned the Congress president about the consequences of such action when I met her last evening, but she insisted that stern action ought to be taken. Also, she said: we will face the crisis."

On whether Mr. Nair's expulsion was intended to be a warning to Mr. Karunakaran, he said: "He is not someone who can be threatened easily". As PCC president he would not recommend action against Mr. Karunakaran, he said to another question. As for action against MLAs who vote for Mr. Nair, the issue would be addressed after polling.

This was confirmed by senior leaders who maintained that the MLAs who proposed and signed Mr. Nair's nomination papers did not warrant similar disciplinary action as of now as they had supported his candidature prior to the day of withdrawal. "After that it is the responsibility of the candidate to pull out when the party has announced its official candidates." Add to this the fact that Ms. Gandhi had on Tuesday specifically told Mr. Muraleedharan to ask Mr. Nair to withdraw from the contest.

While an observer would be sent from Delhi to monitor the elections, the AICC view is that the State leadership "is capable of ensuring the victory of the official candidates".

As for the allies in the Congress-led UDF Government, Mr. Muraleedharan said it was customary for them to vote with the party.