TAMIL NADU

Antony trying to split Cong: Muraleedharan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM NOV. 13. The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president, K. Muraleedharan, today triggered another controversy by openly stating that he suspected that the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, was trying to split the Congress.

He made the statement while speaking exclusively to private television channels. He said the recent statements of the Chief Minister gave such an impression. The Chief Minister seemed to be in doubt about his majority in the Assembly and this was the main reason why he was asking those demanding a special session of the House to approach the Governor with the list of 71 MLAs — the number required for a new Government. He took objection to such observations at a time when the problems in the party were before the high command.

He said that certain people were trying to hijack the party and the Government. Matters had gone out of hand and the possibility of finding a lasting solution to the issues was very dim. Party workers had already split up down to the booth level and he was not sure if they could be lined up as a united force even if some kind of a settlement was achieved. Mr. Muraleedharan discounted news reports that the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, had directed him to campaign for the UDF in the Thiruvalla Assembly by-election. He said he had received no such directions and he did not propose to join the campaigning. Asked about the allegations of the Congress Legislature Party secretary, Thiruvanchur Radhakrishnan, that the Mumbai lobby had launched an attempt to rope in MLAs for a new Government, Mr. Muraleedharan said the main aim of such leaders in making these kinds of statements was to reduce the value of the MLAs in the eyes of the public.

Meanwhile, the `third group' in the Congress has come forward claiming that it was the original `I' group in the party. It has decided to organise a gala function to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the `I' group on January 1, 2004. Addressing a press conference here today, the Cultural Affairs and Food Minister, G. Karthikeyan, a prominent member of the group, said the `I' group was born on January 1, 1978.