K Karunakaran's daughter joins BJP, says Congress lacks strong leadership

Congress leader Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of former Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran joined BJP, saying she was not happy with the grand old party for several years and it lacked a strong leadership.
Former Congress leader from Kerala Padmaja Venugopal addresses media after joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of party leader Prakash Javadekar, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 7, 2024.
Former Congress leader from Kerala Padmaja Venugopal addresses media after joining Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the presence of party leader Prakash Javadekar, in New Delhi, Thursday, March 7, 2024.

New Delhi | Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Congress leader Padmaja Venugopal, the daughter of former Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran, joined the BJP here on Thursday and said she was not happy with the grand old party for several years as it lacked a strong leadership.

Addressing a press conference with the BJP leaders at the party headquarters here, Venugopal said she tried to reach out to the Congress top brass several times to raise her grievances but was never given an appointment.

"I complained to the Congress high command so many times but there was no response. I also came to see the Congress leadership here in this connection several times but they didn't give me an appointment," she told reporters.

"So, I decided to quit because I was not happy with the Congress for so many years, especially since the last assembly elections in the state (Kerala). All I wanted was to work peacefully," she said.

"My father also had the same experience. He was very unhappy with the party," she added.

Venugopal said every party should have a strong leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a "very strong leader" of the BJP.

"In the Congress, there is no leadership. I have great respect for Sonia ji but I can't meet her. She didn't give an appointment to anybody," she claimed.

Venugopal joined the BJP in the presence of senior party leaders, including its Kerala in-charge and former Union minister Prakash Javadekar.

Welcoming her into the party fold, Javadekar said there is going to be a "big churning" in Kerala now.

"This is what is going to happen now. Till the results (of the Lok Sabha elections are announced), you will see many more things," he said.

Seeing the country's progress under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, Javadekar said, people are joining the BJP.

"Modi ji has done tremendous things for Kerala," he said.

The BJP is a party which gives "respect, responsibility and role" to everyone.

"I welcome Padmaja ji. We now have a good campaigner in her... Modi ji has given us a target. We are going to create history in this election," he added.

Speaking at the press conference, BJP leader Tom Vaddakan said Venugopal joining the party is a very emotional moment for him as her father was his mentor.

"Karunakaran ji was my mentor. So, it's a very emotional moment for me to welcome her," said Vaddakan, who had quit the Congress to join the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Congress in Kerala in quandary as stalwart Karunakaran's daughter Padmaja joins BJP

Thiruvananthapuram | The decision of Padmaja Venugopal, daughter of former Kerala chief minister and Congress stalwart late K Karunakaran, to join the BJP has left the grand old party in a quandary in Kerala before the Lok Sabha polls.

Padmaja officially joined the BJP at a function held at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday.

The saffron party has suggested that it marks the decline of the grand old party.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief K Sudhakaran termed Padmaja's decision as "cheating and betraying" the party and a "breach of confidence".

He added that there were no reasons for Padmaja to leave the party and it was a "wrong and unfortunate decision".

The KPCC chief said that he himself had taken many decisions to protect her interests, but she disregarded all that to leave the party and join the BJP.

"Nevertheless, as she is the daughter of the late K Karunakaran, we still have love and respect for her," he said.

Emotionally reacting to the development, K Muraleedharan, senior Congress MP and son of Karunakaran, denounced his sister's decision to depart from the party their father had nurtured, particularly ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. He called it a betrayal.

The ruling CPI(M) in Kerala, on the other hand, sought to capitalise on the development by suggesting that it might erode trust in the Congress, as there would be no guarantee that its members would not join the BJP after winning.

CPI(M) State Secretary M V Govindan commented that the recent exit of members from the grand old party, including the son of Congress stalwart and former Union Minister A K Antony, and their entry into the BJP would not help the saffron party win even a single seat in Kerala.

Earlier in the day, amidst indications that Padmaja would join the BJP, Muraleedharan said that her decision was a betrayal and that their father's spirit would not condone it.

The Vadakara MP announced that he is ending his relationship with his sister.

Muraleedharan further said that Karunakaran had never compromised with communalism and for a member of his family to join the BJP was a sad outcome as far as people with a secular mindset were concerned.

"Our father's spirit will not condone it because she went with a communal organisation. That is why I said all relationships and bonds with her have ended. There will be no compromise with someone who has betrayed the party at this stage even if she is my sister," the Congress MP said while speaking to reporters in Kozhikode.

On being asked by reporters as to why children of Congress stalwarts such as Antony and Karunakaran were leaving the party to join the BJP and whether the leadership was unable to prevent it, Muraleedharan said it was because people's desires grew too big.

"The Congress party has given great consideration to her. That is sufficient for those who work at home," he said.

Muraleedharan further said that both Antony and Karunakaran went through hardships to come up in life but their children have never known any difficulties and therefore get "such bad ideas" of leaving the party and joining an organisation that is "out to destroy the country".

BJP state President K Surendran, on the other hand, said that Antony's son Anil K Antony and Karunakaran's daughter Padmaja's decisions are testimony to the increasing popularity of the saffron party and the beginning of the downfall of the Congress.

Surendran claimed that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda that was attracting people from across the state to the BJP.

"The Modi wave that is sweeping the country is beginning in Kerala," he contended.

He said that many of those who were criticising the BJP in the past will now join it, and that is why they are not saying anything.

Taking a dig at the grand old party, CPI(M) leader Govindan said that more people from the Congress will join the saffron party, claiming that there is not much difference in their ideologies.

"Due to the soft Hindutva stand of the Congress, it is easier for their members to join the BJP as there is not much difference in their ideologies. It has been happening in other parts of India for some time, but not in Kerala. But now it is possible here too.

"In such a situation, how can the people trust them and vote for them? Is there any guarantee they will remain in Congress after winning and will not switch over to the BJP? That is the most important question in Kerala politics presently," the CPI(M) state secretary told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

Govindan further said that Modi and the BJP leadership claimed they would win seats in double digits from Kerala in the upcoming LS polls as "they expect the winners to join them".

"However, there is no possibility of the BJP winning even one seat from Kerala. Even the recent exit of members from the Congress and their joining the BJP will not create a possibility of them winning even one seat," he said.

Muraleedharan, too, expressed the view that the BJP would not benefit "even an ounce" from Padmaja joining it.

"Taking Padmaja will not benefit the BJP even an ounce. It will also not affect our determination to fight. We will push the BJP to the third spot everywhere, including in seats where they hope to win.

"This betrayal would be answered through the EVMs," the Congress MP said.

Muraleedharan further said that Padmaja was thrice given the party ticket to contest polls in Kerala, and each time she had lost.

"So, the claims that others in the party were behind her defeat are not acceptable, as there are many who have tried to do that to me. I have not complained about it because it is the people who decide who should win or not," he said.

He further said that there was a time when he had to leave the party, but even then he did not compromise with the BJP and join it -- even though it would have been very easy to do so -- as his father was someone who never compromised with communalism.

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