Karunakaran blows hot again, but Sonia is cool


Thiruvananthapuram : Will he or won’t he? The speculation about K. Karunakaran getting back in the Congress mounts with the former Kerala chief minister signalling his intent by showering praise on party president Sonia Gandhi, who, however, has yet to agree to meet him.

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During his recent visit to Delhi, the veteran Congress member, who parted ways with the party two years ago and set up the Democratic Indira Congress-Karunakaran (DIC-K) and later joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), said categorically that he accepted Sonia Gandhi as his leader.

Ostensibly in New Delhi to take part in an NCP meeting, the real purpose of Karunakaran’s visit appeared to be paving the way for a smooth return to the Congress.

“Sonia Gandhi has done a good job (while her party is) in power. She has provided good leadership to the (ruling) coalition,” he said about the leader whom he once addressed as ‘madama’, a colloquial term for a foreign woman.

Reminded about his harsh words about Gandhi, he explained: “I felt bad at the way she treated me at that time. But I do not hold anything against her now.”

Though son K. Muraleedharan denied any chance of their return to the Congress, the 89-year-old leader who once ruled the Congress in Kerala and was chief minister four times had made his intention clear.

His bete noire, former chief minister Oommen Chandy, said that Karunakaran’s return is not on the Congress’ agenda.

But former close aides K.C. Kadambooran and T.U. Radhakrishnan, who left Karunakaran to go back to the Congress, said the writing was on the wall.

“You wait and see he is going to return to the Congress party. It will happen soon because a snap general election is round the corner. His son will also return,” Radhakrishnan told IANS.

Yet another Congress leader, P.C. Chacko, said Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Chandy and he himself had at one point or another left the party only to return. “So why not Karunakaran?” he asked.

As the buzz gets louder, the reality is that Karunakaran has failed to meet Sonia Gandhi during his last two visits to the national capital. The frail leader, who sources said was unwell last month and virtually isolated prompting his desire to return to the Congress, is hoping that the meeting will take place when she visits Thiruvananthapuram soon.

It remains to be seen what role Antony will have in this whole episode. After all, the two leaders have always had a love-hate relationship and Karunakaran’s fall started after Antony became chief minister in 2001.

Tensions escalated after that, resulting in the final split in May 2005. But that too failed to click and DIC-K took a severe beating in the May 2006 assembly polls when it teamed up with the Congress-led United Democratic Front.

It then merged with the NCP in November last year in the hope that the situation would improve, but there too things turned sour – the NCP was booted out of the ruling Left Democratic Front alliance for teaming up with Karunakaran.

Karunakaran has been maintaining a low profile since. The Congress is perhaps his only hope for a resurrection.

It is to be seen, however, how the political game plays out.