KERALA

Rally: `I' group leaders in Kollam develop cold feet

KOLLAM, MARCH 11. Action being initiated against some prominent leaders in the Congress who had participated in the first regional rally of the `I' group in the party in Kozhikode has made factional leaders here jittery. The group leaders who vowed to make the rally in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday a big success at a meeting with the former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K. Muraleedharan here on February 23 are having second thoughts on attending the rally.

Most `I' group leaders find themselves confused as many of them hold positions in corporations, societies and other organisations. They fear that attending the rally will cost them these posts.

At a conclave held here on Thursday to discuss way to ensure the success of Saturday's rally, the moot point was whether the leaders would be stripped of their posts. By afternoon today, many prominent group leaders in Kollam left for Thiruvananthapuram to find ways to keep their posts safe by not attending the rally and at the same time, remain in the group.

Meeting

The District Congress Committee (DCC) president, Sooranad Rajashekaran, an `I' group leader and Vice-President of the Kerala State Cooperative Bank, today rushed to the capital and met the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, before visiting the senior leader and head of the group, K. Karunakaran, in his house.

Sources said most group leaders in Kollam had made it clear that they would not attend the rally, but continue to be strong activists of the group. This had confused cadres, and many of them had taken the stand that without the leaders, they would not attend the rally.

N. Azhakesan, `I' group leader and Chairman of the Kerala Toddy Workers' Welfare Fund Board, told The Hindu that he would not attend the rally. He had met the KPCC president, Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, in this connection today along with the Vice-Chairman of the Khadi Board, K.C. Rajan, and the Chairman of the Kollam Development Authority, A.A. Samad. Mr. Samad and Mr. Rajan too are not attending the rally. They said that if the need arose, they were prepared to resign from their posts. 0Mr. Karunakaran had said that he would remain within the party and fight for the rights of the group.

Such a fight should be carried forward. Mr. Azhakesan said he would not quit the Congress, but continue in the party as a strong `I' group activist.

Mr. Rajashekaran has an excuse to stay in Kollam on Saturday because Mr. Balakrishna Pillai is inaugurating a function at the DCC complex.

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