TAMIL NADU

AICC seeks explanation from faction leaders

NEW DELHI OCT. 26. After testing the waters on Saturday with the threat of a show-cause notice to some senior party functionaries of the faction-ridden Kerala unit, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) today set in motion a process that could lead to disciplinary action by seeking verifications from three Ministers and one MLA as to whether they had issued some of the "provocative and damaging'' statements attributed to them.

Walking the tightrope, the Central leadership has sought to appear even-handed in its move by seeking verifications from two members each from the Karunakaran camp and the opposite camps. The three Ministers who have been sent the "verification'' letters with press clippings are Kadavoor Sivadasan and P. Sankaran of the Karunakaran faction, and K. Sudhakaran from the anti-Karunakarn group. Besides, the Antony-loyalist MLA, P.T. Thomas, who has openly spoken out against the KPCC president, K. Muraleedharan, has been sent a similar letter. All have been given a week's time to respond.

The action is apparently aimed at putting to an end the constant sabre-rattling between the two factions in the State unit of the Congress after the Ernakulam by-poll debacle. While issuing these letters, the AICC in-charge of Kerala, Ahmed Patel, is said to have asked Mr. Muraleedharan to instruct party workers to stop issuing provocative statements and indulging in open war of words in meetings at various levels.

These letters were sent after a meeting between senior leaders and the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, in the morning. The meeting was attended by Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh and Mr. Patel, besides two members of the three-member panel set up to look into indiscipline during the by-election, L. P. Shahi and R.K. Dhawan.

The action has been effected by the AICC, and not the Shahi panel as the Central leadership has decided to de-link the Ernakulam by-poll debacle and the causes for it from the no-holds-barred factionalism within the State unit thereafter.

While the Central leadership has informed the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, and Mr. Muraleedharan about its decision to seek verifications from the four Congressmen, there was no explanation forthcoming as to why they were picked up. All that was offered by way of explanation was that "we have taken note of the more serious of the statements brought to our notice''. Also, the possibility of more leaders being issued similar letters is not being ruled out.

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