War within Congress in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, May 20 (IANS) A day after it suffered a rout in assembly elections, war erupted within the Congress in Kerala on Friday, with leaders blaming one another for the humiliating loss.

Allegations and counter-allegations flew thick and fast, forcing state party president V.M. Sudheeran to appeal for calm. He said a meeting had been called here on Monday “where everyone can speak”.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) suffered one of its worst electoral reverses when its tally crashed from 73 seats to 47 in the 140-member Kerala assembly.

The Congress’ own strength in the house fell from 39 to 22. Among those who were humbled by a resurgent Left were two ministers, the speaker and the deputy speaker.

The Congress in Kerala had always suffered from factionalism.

The three main factions are led by outgoing Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, former Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala and Sudheeran.

Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of former Chief Minister K. Karunakaran who lost at Thrissur, said she was stabbed in the back by senior leaders.

“The grassroot workers in the party were always with me during the campaign while the leadership was not there,” said an angry Venugopal.

Another party leader and former minister C.N. Balakrishnan, who was not given a seat to contest, hit back, saying Venugopal was becoming emotional because she had lost the polls.

State Congress vice president Laly Vincent, who lost badly at Alappuzha, blamed the rout on the party’s decision to field some candidates facing allegations of corruption.

Senior Congress leader and INTUC president R. Chandrasekheran said the UDF would not have been defeated if Chief Minister Chandy had not hijacked the party.

Former Excise Minister K. Babu gave a reason as to why he was defeated: confusion over his seat. “When the confusion is created in my party, what will my voters think?”

K. Muraleedharan, the son of K. Karunakaran who won his seat in the capital city, said there was no point in blaming any one person and that the Congress would have to introspect.

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