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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Campaign against IUML leader Kunhalikutty intensifies

New Delhi: The Congress led ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala is in a dilemma with mounting public pressure against the industries minister and IUML leader, PK Kunhalikutty’s continuance in the office following recent disclosures by the Kozhikode sex scandal victim Regina that the minister raped her when she was a minor. 

PK Kunhalikutty

PK Kunhalikutty

The state government holds the view that there is nothing legally wrong in Kunhalikutty continuing as a minister because he has not been implicated in the case by the court. The chief minister Oommen Chandy after discussions with cabinet colleagues, the Advocate General and the Director General of Prosecutions on the legal aspects of the case has decided to get the High Court stay vacated in the case.

However the increasing public opinion against the minister is certainly a matter of worry for Chandy, who assumed office hoping to revive the fortunes of the coalition that had taken a severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections. The chief minister has made his stand clear that the law would take its own course and his government would not succumb to "blackmail politics" of the opposition, though no one in the UDF is willing to openly come out to support the minister.

The Congress party is divided on the issue, with a section holding the view that the chief minister should take into consideration the public opinion against the industries minister. However only a few leaders such as VM Sudheeran have come out with such a demand.

Another section in the Congress party holds the view that if the party takes a strong against Kunhalikutty, it would mar its relations with the IMUL.

The Mahila Congress state president, Shanimol Usman while addressing a press conference at Pathanamthitta on November 19, suspected a political conspiracy to defame the minister. She said that it was not proper for VM Sudheeran and Youth Congress (I) state president, KP Anilkumar to demand his resignation.
While the IUML has thrown its full weight behind Kunhalikutty, it has attributed the campaign against the minister as politically motivated aimed at weakening its influence in Kerala politics.

The IUML called an emergency meeting at Panakkadu residence of Shihab Ali Thanal on November 25. The leadership is of the opinion that Regin’s new statements against Kunhalikutty have badly affected the party. The IUML state council member and district vice president Kamal M Makkiyil said that he should resign and face the inquiry as it was the only way the party could win the confidence of the people and party activists.

The pro-opposition women’s organisations are also against his continuance in the office. Many leaders of women’s organisations told a press conference on November 9 in Thiruvananthapuram that they would extend the blockade to the chief minister if he did not ask industries minister to step down in the light of the disclosures by Rejina. The conference was attended by PK Sremmathy, All India Democratic Women’s Association; Meenakshi Thampan, Kerala Mahila Sanghom; Mercy Alexander, Kerala Street Vedi; T.B. Mini, Janadhipathya Mahila Sanghatana and representatives of several other organisations.

Terming the Industries minister’s refusal to step down a sign of arrogance, they said that women of Kerala would not allow him to remain in power on technical grounds. Besides Rejina, four other girls had also named the minister in the sex scandal, they said.

The opposition Marxist led LDF has announced a state wide agitation to press for the expulsion of industries minister from Oommen Chandy cabinet. Briefing newsmen after a two day state committee meeting of the LDF in Thiruvananthapuram on November10 , its convenor Paloli Mohammedkutty said that the front would boycott all the official functions of the controversial minister besides extending support to its youth and students wings which were already on an agitation on the issue. 

On being asked that the previous LDF government had removed Kunhalikutty’s name from the list of accused in the case, he said that there was no concrete evidence against him at that time but now in the light of recent disclosures by the victim a case should be registered against him. The attempts by Kunhalikutty to communalise the issue and thereby finding a way out had failed, he alleged.

The BJP state president, PS Sreedhran Pillai said on November 10 at Kochi that the party has decided to intensify the agitation against Kunhalikutty’s ouster.

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