Kerala: Shashi Tharoor joins Opposition protest in ‘bid’ to blunt detractors

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor Thursday joined the ongoing party-led stir in the state capital demanding the resignation of CPI(M) leader and mayor Arya Rajendran in an alleged recruitment scam. Political observers said Tharoor might have participated in the stir to blunt criticisms that he was not active in anti-Left agitation.

Meanwhile, senior Congress legislator and former Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala joined the controversy over Tharoor’s north Kerala political outreach programme, saying that “all leaders have space to work anywhere in the state, but that should be in the party framework.”

Tharoor, who returned to the state capital Wednesday evening after his four-day-long north Kerala mission, turned up at the venue of the agitation.

While attacking Tharoor for indulging in parallel political activity under the ‘guise’ of a north Kerala tour, senior party legislator and Opposition leader VD Satheesan had indirectly criticised Tharoor’s absence in the state capital at a time the Congress was protesting against the mayor. The protest against the mayor’s alleged bid to recruit CPI(M) cadre to the municipal body has been going on for the last two weeks. On some days, the agitation had turned violent and scores of Congress workers were jailed.

Addressing the UDF agitation, Tharoor said: “I was first to demand the resignation of the mayor. Certain people might have forgotten that… Everybody knows that I had raised the demand on November 7. I had adopted a clear stand on this issue and I hope the party would understand it.’’

On returning from the north Kerala tour, marked by meetings with IUML leaders, religious heads of minority communities and delivering talks on “Sangh Parivar and challenge to secularism,” Tharoor dropped enough hints that he is to stay in the state politics. “The party would decide whether I should contest the Lok Sabha or the Assembly elections,’’ he told the media.

Chennithala, who has been away in Gujarat for the Congress campaign, Thursday joined the issue but tried to strike a balance. “All leaders have space in the party. What is important is to put up a strong fight against the LDF Government’s anti-people policies. None should be instrumental for giving an impression that there is factionalism in the party.’’

Referring to former party state chief K Muraleedharan’s allegation that those who are eyeing the CM’s post in the party were behind the Youth Congress decision to withdraw from hosting Tharoor’s last Sunday talk in Kozhikode, Chennithala said: “There is enough time to tailor the mantle of the CM.’’

It is widely believed that Tharoor getting active in state politics would create a churning in the upper-caste Hindu Nair camp of the Congress comprising AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, Opposition leader VD Satheesan, former Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and former KPCC president K Muraleedharan. Both Chennithala and Muraleedharan had faced a setback in their careers in recent years after Satheesan rose to the state leadership and Venugopal to the national. The stand of Chennithala and Muraleedharan towards the ‘one-man show’ of Tharoor would be critical in the impending realignment of equations in the party.

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