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Cong split wide open over Tharoor, fingers are pointed, leader says can’t keep him out

Shashi Tharoor’s outreach in northern Kerala continued to agitate the party on Monday, with the party’s state chairman K Sudhakaran urging leaders not to make any public statements that could harm the party’s unity, including though the Thiruvananthapuram MP’s mainstays in the state unit continued to criticize how things had turned out. .

“Congress is a party that ensures internal democracy. Public statements that could undermine the unity of the party should be avoided. Tharoor is a prominent congress leader. He is free to attend official functions in consultation with the district congressional committees (DCCs). There should be no obstacle to the organizational work of leaders. The party will debate issues related to Tharoor,” said the chairman of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC).

Sudhakaran’s appeal to his party colleagues came a day after Tharoor started his four-day tour of North Kerala in the spotlight. Under pressure from the party, the Youth Congress (YC) withdrew from an event in Kozhikode on Sunday where the MP would speak on ‘Sangh Parivar and the Challenges of Secularism’. Tharoor initially said he saw the event with a “sporting spirit”, but later in the day demanded a party inquiry into the fact that the Youth Congress was not allowed to deliver his talk.

Sudhakaran’s statement was in stark contrast to Praveen Kumar, the president of the party’s Kozhikode district, who claimed that Tharoor was denied the venue because the lecture was considered “factional activity”. Kozhikode MP MK Raghavan, who sent a strong message to Tharoor’s opponents in the party, said on Sunday: “Those who have banned the YC from hosting Tharoor should remember that Vishu (Kerala’s harvest festival celebrated in April) is not can be exterminated by cutting down the Amaltas (the blossoming of which marks the coming of Vishu).”

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On Monday, former KPCC president and Vatakara MP K. Muraleedharan added a new twist to the controversy by claiming that certain leaders in the party viewed Tharoor as a threat. Without naming anyone, Muraleedharan said, “Those who keep an eye on the chief minister’s post are behind it (withdrawal of party venue). I don’t want to name anyone. The ban on Tharoor should not have happened.”

Asked about MK Raghavan’s demand for an internal investigation into the episode, Muraleedharan said, ‘Everyone knows what happened. No probe is needed because things are very clear. Tharoor should not have been prevented from using the YC platform.”

Congress legislator VD Satheesan is suspected by some of being behind the Youth Congress decision to withdraw from the Tharoor event. He refused to get involved in the controversy, saying, “I don’t want to comment on what he (Muraleedharan) said. It is a party issue and the state president will comment on it,” he said in Alappuzha.

Satheesan, former opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, and general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), KC Venugopal, remained silent on the controversy. These leaders, including Muraleedharan, were part of the Congress (I) group in Kerala in the late 1970s, which was affiliated with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi – the “I” standing for Indira. The faction was led by Muraleedharan’s father and former CM late K Karunakaran, while the rival faction “A” was led by AK Antony. Later Chennithala handed over the legacy of the I group and former CM Oommen Chandy that of the A group. But both groups declined after the emergence of Satheesan as opposition leader and Sudhakaran as party chairman in 2021.

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With Tharoor reportedly looking to become active in state politics, comparisons between these leaders are likely to shift in the coming days. The upper caste Hindu Nair camp in the Congress is already full of aspiring leaders and Tharoor’s entry into state politics is likely to cause an uproar in the group.

While both Muraleedharan and Sudhakaran were not with Tharoor when he contested the party’s presidential election in October, they have supported him during this latest controversy.

The Congress ally, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), threw its weight behind Tharoor on Monday, with party leader PK Kunhalikutty saying, “If the Congress leads the secular front in the country, Tharoor is the vanguard. He is a popular leader and it is up to Congress how to use Tharoor.”

Tharoor will hold talks with IUML chief Panakkad Sayyid Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal and Kunhalikutty in Malappuram on Tuesday. Tharoor has already met two Catholic bishops in Kozhikode in the past two days.

Sources in the congress said the party feared that the CPI(M) would use the Tharoor episode to portray the congress’s unwillingness to take on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP. On many occasions in the past, the CPI(M) accused the state congress – under both Sudhakaran and Satheesan – of taking a soft Hindutva stance.


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