Karunakaran meets Sonia, sticks to his stand

NEW DELHI OCT. 13. The senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, met the party president, Sonia Gandhi, here this evening, but is reported to have refused to budge an inch on his demand for a leadership change in the Kerala Government.

Describing the stance of his faction within the State unit of the party as "not adamant but firm", the veteran Congressman indicated that his discussion with Ms. Gandhi was inconclusive.

Talking to mediapersons after meeting Ms. Gandhi, all that Mr. Karunakaran said about his discussion was: ``I apprised her about the political situation in Kerala.''

The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, and was attended by the AICC general secretary in-charge of Kerala, Ahmed Patel, who had met Mr. Karunakaran for an hour at his residence this morning.

Refusing to divulge the details about what transpired in his talks or his plans for the future, the octogenarian leader said his group had not set any deadline for the high command. ``The November 19 rally has nothing to do with leadership change, it is to commemorate our leader's birth anniversary.'' Asked why he stirred trouble for the Congress ever so often, he said, ``unfortunately, the issues I raise are not addressed." While he did not rule out further discussions, Mr. Karunakaran gave enough indications that there was no question of his group backtracking on its one-point agenda of leadership change. As for Cabinet reshuffle, he said it had never been the `I' group demand. The `I' group's demand, he said, had all along been only a change in leadership because it believed the future of the party in the State was bleak if the Congress continued with the current set-up in the Government.

About the Ernakulam byelection debacle, Mr. Karunakaran said he had warned the party leadership during informal talks that only a candidate acceptable to all groups would win the seat. Of the view that there can be no shying away from group politics in Kerala, he said the constituency had been his faction's since 1980. Stating that he had warned of such a situation if the 23-year-old arrangement was disturbed, he was candid in stating that "if a Congress candidate had been defeated, I would have been the first to feel unhappy. But this time, it was a candidate selected by the Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, and the Government; so, I cannot say I am happy or unhappy.''

Here to attend a Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting, Mr. Karunakaran is said to have spoken to several senior Congress leaders over the telephone.

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