Breaking his silence on the Congress’s controversial decision to give the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Kerala that the party can win to Kerala Congress (M), Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P J Kurien on Wednesday said the move will only sharpen communal polarisation in the state, which will ultimately help the BJP. The decision to give the seat to Kerala Congress (M) has pushed the Congress’s state unit into a crisis, with leaders openly criticising Chandy and the state leadership, including Ramesh Chennithala and KPCC chief M M Hassan.
Kurien alleged that the “brain” behind the decision is former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy, and that others like Chennithala merely went along. He likened the move to the controversial decision of the Oommen Chandy government in 2012 to give a fifth ministerial berth to ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which had plunged the state unit into crisis then. That move was resented by Hindu organisations such as Nair Service Society and Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalanayogam, as the number of ministers from minority communities — Christians and Muslims — had reached 12, more than that of Hindus in the council of ministers.
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In a bid to counter the criticism that the UDF government was run by minority ministers, and to placate Hindu groups, Chandy had then handed over the Home portfolio to Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, a Hindu Nair. Talking to The Indian Express, Kurien on Wednesday said giving the Rajya Sabha seat to Kerala Congress (M), a Christian party, is similar to that “fifth minister issue.” He said, “Giving the seat to Kerala Congress (M) will not help or benefit the Congress in any way. It will only increase communal polarisation in Kerala, and the benefit of that will go to the BJP.” A similar situation had arisen when the IUML was given the fifth minister then, he said.
Kurien, among three Rajya Sabha MPs retiring this month, said he had written two letters to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, making it clear that he would not have any problem if the seat is given to any other Congress leader. “I did not stake claim for the seat. At the same time, I would not have rejected it had it been given to me,” he said. “I had made it clear to the Congress president that I would not have any problem —rather, I would be happy if the seat is given to another Congressman. I had suggested some names also.”
Kurien said he had performed his role as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman impartially, without any bias, and always went by rules. A section of young Congress leaders had opposed another term for Kurien, pitting them against the seniors, but the decision to give the seat to Kerala Congress (M) surprised everyone. Among the three Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in Kerala, the CPI(M)-led LDF is in a position to win two seats while the Congress-led UDF can win one. The election is on June 21.