Why does success evade Padmaja, K.Karunakaran’s daughter?


No doubt Late K.Karunakaran, one of the tallest leaders of Kerala, will always be remembered for moulding and mentoring several current and former party leaders, but his daughter Padmaja Venugopal is yet to make an impact in the political canvas of the state.

Sixty-one-year-old Padmaja was Karunakaran’s shadow whether he was in power or not. Though she failed, her brother K.Muraleedharan managed to create a space for himself and is a leader in his own right.

Muraleedharan’s growth trajectory started when the factional feud between Karunakaran and Antony was at its peak in the eighties and the wily Karunakaran’s famous statement on his son’s name cropping up as a candidate in 1989 Lok Sabha elections that, “I do not know, I had gone to the washroom and when I came back, his name was cleared”.

A badly hurt Antony, after that on a few occasions had recalled this statement, whenever the list of candidates of Congress candidate came up for discussion and insiders in the party state that, this is perhaps one od the reasons why Padmaja could not make it to the top.

The first post that she got was in 2001, soon after Antony was sworn in as the chief minister, when she was made the chairperson of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation.

Padmaja’s first election outing was at the Mukundapuram Lok Sabha constituency in 2004, a seat which Karunakaran and numerous Congress candidates won with ease, but she had to bite the dust and lost by a mile to Lonappan Nambadan.

After the loss, she went into political hibernation for a while and her stock further declined after the passing away of Karunakaran in 2010.

Then after a while she started getting active in politics, but by then her brother had become a leader, even after he left the Congress for a while and returned.

Her next outing was at the 2016 Assembly elections and from the home bastion of Karunakaran- Trissur, but luck deserted her and lost.

And again in 2021 April Assembly polls, she lost by a very thin margin of 946 votes and by then for all practical purposes, her electoral ambitions came to a grounding halt.

Currently, an-office bearer of the state party unit, her hopes brightened up last month, when there were talks of sending a woman to the Rajya Sabha, but here too she lost out to Jeby Mether, signalling that things have reached a dead end for her.

Padmaja, by her own admission, is deeply upset forcing her to say that at the moment she is with Congress, but can’t say what will happen in the future.

She was reacting to the reports of one of Karunakaran’s then closest aide K.V.Thomas attending the 23rd CPI-M Party Congress, against which the AICC disciplinary committee will come out with their decision, very soon.

Among the leaders, K.C.Venugopal (AICC general secretary- Organisation), Ramesh Chennithala, Thomas, Pandalam ASudhakaran, late C.N.Balakrishnan, late P.Sankaran are few of the leaders who were mentored by Karunakaran.

Of these, Venugopal’s case is interesting as like Karunakaran, he also hailed from Kannur and was among the latter’s favourites.

And for his loyalty, Karunakaran ensured a safe seat for Venugopal in the 1996 Assembly polls which he won and since then he had no reason to look back.

A media critic, on condition of anonymity, said in politics the biggest problem is there are no permanent friends and enemies and that turned out to be the biggest bane for Padmaja.

“Karunakaran tried his best to place her, but things did not work out, even when Muraleedharan worked his way up. With age catching up on her and the Congress itself in a not a very cosy position, only a miracle can resurrect her political career,” said the critic.

It needs to be seen whether she is able to hold on to her party post that she now has, as the party is all set to go for a revamp. If she fails, then it could be curtains for her in the same Congress which once danced to Karunakaran’s tunes.



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