Sonia chastises Kerala leaders over IUML tensions

May 29th, 2008 - 3:04 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi has warned the party unit in Kerala to sort out its differences with its trusted ally Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) after some of her party leaders made defamatory statements against a prominent Muslim leader. Gandhi told the Kerala leaders, who met her at her residence here Wednesday, that there should be no statements from Congress leaders that displeases its decades-old ally.

“The Congress president has directed the state leadership to iron out the differences immediately. Although the party high command views the current problems as local issues, Gandhi was particular that there should not be anything from our side to worsen the situation,” a Congress leader from Kerala told IANS here.

Senior Congress legislator Aryadan Mohammad and his son Aryadan Shoukath had reportedly said that the drive against fake ‘godmen’ in Kerala should also include the family of spiritual leader Panakkad Shihab Thangal, who is also a senior leader of IUML.

The comment sparked a furore, with Muslim League activists setting fire to a Congress office at Nadapuram, 70 km from Kozhikode, Saturday night.

When Gandhi pulled them up, senior party leaders, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy and state Congress president Ramesh Chennithala, promised that the troubles in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) would be resolved soon.

“Our relationship with the IUML goes back 38 years. The Congress party will not allow the current situation to affect the alliance,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, who had been sent by Gandhi to talk to Thangal.

“The relationship has been wonderful. The state leadership should ensure that nothing should affect the UDF’s fight against the CPI-M (state ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist),” Ravi told IANS. “Personal issues shall not tamper political ties.”

According to Congress sources, Gandhi told the state leadership to ensure that the Communists not be allowed to take advantage of the situation.

“Gandhi has said that the UDF should be united to exploit the anti-incumbency wave against the CPI-M-led LDF (Left Democratic Front) government ahead of the upcoming parliament elections,” a Congress leader said.

The Aryadans’ public remarks have brought to the fore differences in the fragile ties between the Congress and the Muslim-dominated party. Commenting on the tensions, IUML state general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty said that his party was not getting a fair treatment from the UDF.

The IUML, one of the major allies of the Congress in the UDF, has eight legislators in the state assembly. The lone UDF winner in the 2004 parliamentary elections was IUML leader E. Ahamed, who is minister of state for external affairs in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government.

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