TAMIL NADU

Karunakaran rakes up Gouri-CM row

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM DEC. 4. In an apparent bid to create more political space, the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, has picked up the pique between the JSS leader and the Agriculture Minister, K.R. Gouri, and the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, as a campaign point.

He has also backed the Opposition demand for convening the Assembly to discuss the ADB loan. At a press conference here today, Mr. Karunakaran gave a new dimension to the Opposition demand by stating that the conditionalities of the ADB loan had not been discussed either in the UDF or the KPCC executive, even though the Chief Minister had been waxing eloquent about being transparent about the process.

The two issues together have helped Karunakaran shift the media focus from the expulsion notice issued to his ardent follower, Shobhana George, at least temporarily. He questioned the Disciplinary Action Committee's powers to expel party members.

The interesting aspect of Mr. Karunakaran's statements was his reluctance to highlight the Shobhana George issue. Obviously, he did not want it to come in the way of a potential political opening given by Ms. Gouri's public statements against interference in her department's affairs.

Murali meets Sonia

Our Special Correspondent from New Delhi reports:

The KPCC president, K. Muraleedharan, met the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, here today to discuss the State Disciplinary Action Committee recommendation to suspend the party MLA, Shobhana George, for forging intelligence documents with the intention of compromising the Antony-led coalition Government. Though Mr. Muraleedharan refused to divulge details of what transpired at the meeting, indications are that the party high command has taken a decision which will be announced by the KPCC president on his return to Kerala tomorrow. The DAC had on Tuesday recommended divesting Ms. George of the primary party membership for five years. Given that the DAC is only an advisory body, action on the recommendation needs the endorsement of the party's central leadership. The DAC had been set up some weeks ago by the AICC in view of the forgery case against Ms. George and other `anti-party' statements by some leaders. Today's meeting between Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Muraleedharan took place even as Mr. Karunakaran, indicated that his group would challenge the decision of the DAC.

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