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This Day 25 Years Ago with FPJ: Reprieve for Kerala CM Karunakaran

The fate of the opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion was known, given the intervention of the Prime Minister with a promise to the dissidents and the constituents of the United Democratic Front (the Muslim league and the three factions of the Kerala Congress in particular) that he would sort out the problem of leadership once the no-trust motion was defeated.

The constituents and the dissidents, except Sudheeran, a former Congress speaker and Radhakrishnan, the secretary of the Kerala Congress, voted against the no-confidence motion and saved Karunakaran's skin. But the sad discomfiture that Karunakaran faced in the assembly has been that no leaders from the constituent parties nor from among the dissidents came to the defence of the Chief Minister when he was mericlessly pilloried by a determined opposition on several counts. The scene in the assembly when some of the best speakers from the constituents like Balakrishnan Pillai and Mani sat as mute spectators was unprecedented. There was no question of the dissidents coming to the aid of the Chief Minister. Now both the constituents and the dissidents are waiting for the Prime Minister's verdict, since the former have fulfilled their part of the contract with the Prime Minister.

And here is the rub. It is inconceivable that the Prime Minister would quietly ask Karunakaran to make way for another leader to head the UDF.

Congress stalwart Kannoth Karunakaran was a master tactician who remained a 'King' in Kerala politics for decades and at times as much sought after political troubleshooter at the national level.

Considered a close lieutenant of former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the four-time former Kerala chief minister has been credited with creating in the 1970s a rainbow coalition--the United Democratic Front (UDF)-- that has sustained itself on the support from different social, caste and religious groups as a powerful bloc to take on CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front(LDF).

He has been a Congress(I) father figure who built the party "from a group of nine MLAs in 1967" through two divisions in 1969 and 1978 to a strength of 57 in the 1991 Congress(I)-led UDF Ministry. The big break in his career came in 1967 with the party choosing him to lead the nine-member Congress bloc after the party was humbled by the LDF.

(Inputs from PTI)