KERALA

State issue not discussed at CWC meet

NEW DELHI DEC. 7. With the top leadership of the party closeted for a greater part of the day in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, the Kerala crisis that had preoccupied its central leadership over the past couple of days even in the face of the reverses it suffered in the Assembly elections was put on the backburner today.

Though the State party leaders - who have been camping in the Capital since Friday - were told on Saturday that they may be called for discussions today, the Ajit Jogi episode overtook Kerala issues with Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel being assigned the additional task of looking into allegations of the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister offering bribe to Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs.

And, with the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, deciding to leave for Kerala on Monday, the ongoing exercise to find a "low risk lasting solution" to the perennial group-fighting within the State unit of the party is likely to gain momentum now only on Thursday when he is scheduled to return. By then, the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, is also expected to be discharged from hospital.

For his part, Mr. Karunakaran left the hospital - where he has been undergoing treatment since Wednesday - for a couple of hours this morning to attend the CWC meeting. After attending the meeting for about 45 minutes, he left to return to the hospital via his official residence. In a brief interaction with the media, he indicated that there was no dilution in his demand for a leadership change in the Kerala Government.

Though the Kerala crisis did not come up for discussion in the CWC meeting, Mr. Antony apparently discussed the matter with Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Patel along its sidelines during the day. "I am confident the high command will find a way out of the crisis," he said.

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