Rift in Cong. likely to pose hurdles to UDF in Thiruvalla

PATHANAMTHITTA Oct. 28. The `decision' of the `I' group, led by the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, to disassociate with the UDF election campaign is likely to cause hurdles to the UDF, particularly the Kerala Congress(M), in the Assembly by-election in Thiruvalla slated for December 1.

`I' group leaders were not present at today's UDF election convention held at the St. John's Cathedral Hall in Thiruvalla. Though the KPCC president, K. Muraleedharan, presided over the convention, which was inaugurated by the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, the `I' faction maintained that Mr. Muraleedharan had attended the meet as the KPCC chief.

Several `I' group leaders who spoke to The Hindu expressed their discontent over the alleged sidelining of Mr. Karunakaran by "Antony and Co" during the discussions regarding the by-election. They alleged that Mr. Karunakaran had not even personally been consulted by the KC(M) leader and Revenue Minister, K.M. Mani, regarding the by-election.

The two Congress MLAs from the district, who belong to the `I' group, Adoor Prakash and Malethu Saraladevi, failed to turn up for the convention, besides all the KPCC and DCC office-bearers belonging to the faction.

Talking to The Hindu, the `I' group MLA, Adoor Prakash, said Mr. Mani should have invited Mr. Karunakaran in person for the convention. "The KC(M) leader had done the `job' over telephone as a `vazhipadu'," he alleged.

E.O. Agasthy, another `I' group leader, said the UDF leadership should realise that the "UDF or the Congress sans Karunakaran was nothing but a pack of cards". The UDF had to surrender its traditional bastion of Ernakulam to the LDF when it sidelined Mr. Karunakaran, he said.

The KPCC joint secretary, Ajeeba M. Sahib, the Pathanamthitta DCC vice-president, K. Sadasiva Panicker, and the secretary, A. Shamsuddin, said the `I' group in the district would not join the poll campaign until their `Leader' directed them to do so.

The `I' group leaders compare the present political situation in Thiruvalla to the by-election held in 1979 following the death of the then local MLA, E. John Jacob.

In the 1979 by-election, the Congress led by Mr. Karunakaran with 19 members in the Assembly had fielded its own candidate, A.T. Samuel, against the candidate of the ruling coalition, John Jacob Vallakalil of the Kerala Congress, and the CPI(M)-backed Independent candidate, P.C. Thomas.

Mr. Thomas had defeated Mr. Vallakkalil of the Kerala Congress while Mr. Karunakaran's candidate, Prof. Samuel, bagged 7,700-odd votes.

The `I' group leaders claim that even in 1979, when the Thiruvalla Assembly segment had only 60,000 voters, the Karunakaran faction had polled 7,700-odd votes in its favour.

The `I' group's `negative' stand in the ensuing by-election has already sent shock waves in the UDF camp, the KC(M) camp in particular.

There are also rumours that a municipal councillor in Thiruvalla is likely to contest as a KC(M) rebel in protest against the denial of the party ticket to him.

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