TAMIL NADU

Karunakaran blames it on liquor mafia

KOCHI APRIL. 15. The senior leader of the Congress, K. Karunakaran, has blamed the `liquor mafia' for the defeat of his candidate, Kodoth Govindan Nair, in the Rajya Sabha election held yesterday.

``It was with the support of the liquor mafia that the two (the Congress' official candidates, Vayalar Ravi and Thennala Balakrishna Pillai) have won the election,'' Mr. Karunakaran told mediapersons at the Kochi airport on Tuesday.

He was on his way back to Thiruvananthapuram from his monthly visit to the Guruvayur temple.

Mr. Karunakaran said, a `particular liquor contractor in Thiruvananthapuram' had recently got his licence illegally renewed.

This renewal was against the UDF's declared liquor policy. An `I' group MLA, who had now crossed over to the rival camp, had stayed overnight at the contractor's home the other day, he alleged.

He argued that money power and abuse of Governmental power were behind the shift of votes from the `I' group to the `A' group.

Some of the MLAs, `including a particular Minister,' had been promised that court cases pending against them would be dropped.

He said he had not counted the Tourism Minister, K. V. Thomas, as his camp follower. The Minister had used the `I' group to secure the ministerial position, but had ditched the group soon after.

He admitted that votes had `drained' from his camp to the rival camp; but, at the same time, he claimed that `A' group votes had been cast for his candidate too.

He reasoned that in the Congress group politics, this was natural and that he was not bothered. He hoped the `A' group MLAs, who had voted for Mr. Govindan Nair, would work for his group in the future.

He also claimed that the Rajya Sabha election result was not a defeat but a victory.

Those who had said the rebel candidate would not garner more than 20 votes had been proved wrong. The election showed that despite all the machinations of the `A' group, 26 MLAs had stood solidly by him.

He contended that one of the reasons for fielding the rebel candidate was to display his group's strength.

The `I' group had all along tried to highlight the problems it had faced in the party, but the leadership ignored them all.

He said he had not yet considered about pulling down the Antony Government.

However, he pointed out that the Assembly majority of the Antony Government had now been reduced to six from 60 (if the `I' Group MLAs are counted with the Opposition).

The future plans of his group would depend on the high command's steps, he said.

Asked about a stringent demand in the party for action against his son and KPCC president, K. Muraleedharan, for the alleged violation of party discipline and for `playing group politics', Mr. Karunakaran said Mr. Muraleedharan had only acted in accordance with the directives of the AICC leadership.

When pointed out to him that three KPCC general secretaries had complained to the AICC against Mr. Muraleedhara's `acts of indiscipline', Mr. Karunakaran retorted that they were too ambitious to become the KPCC president.

He also said that the Excise policy of the Government had failed. The Crime Branch investigation into the recent hooch tragedy at Anchalummoodu in Kollam district would not do.

All those responsible for the disaster should be booked and punished, he demanded.

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