In a rare disclosure, Kerala state unit Congress president MM Hassan on Saturday revealed that in 1995 AK Antony had asked some party leaders not to unseat then Chief Minister K Karunakaran.
Hassan said this while speaking at the eighth death anniversary of Karunakaran, one of the tallest Congress leaders of his time and a four-time Chief Minister of the state.
"Soon after the turn of events in the ISRO spy case, I along with a group of Congress leaders with Oommen Chandy wanted that Karunakaran should step down. Chandy along with me, after pressing for the removal of Karunakaran, went to Antony's house. Antony was adamant that there should be no such move as it could lead to the weakening of the Congress party, similar to what happened in the '60s, when PT Chacko left the Congress," said Hassan.
He added that now looking back, there is a feeling of guilt.
"I feel, I should not have done that," said Hassan.
Ever since Karunakaran became a powerful Congress leader in Kerala in the early '70s, the party till the early 2000s was seen as having two factions - one headed by Karunakaran and the other by Antony, but the master brain was Chandy.
When reporters met Chandy on Saturday in Thiruvananthapuram- the state capital and asked him if he too felt it was a mistake to unseat Karunakaran, Chandy asked, "Who said this?" and when told it was Hassan, Chandy with a smile walked away.
But in 1995, Karunakaran eventually had to move out and he was replaced by Antony.
The spy case
Mariam Rasheeda, a Maldives native, was the first to be arrested in the case on October 20, 1994, for overstaying in Kerala and she was found to be connected with ISRO scientist D Sasikumar. Later, her friend Fauzia Hassan, was also arrested.
A Special Investigation Team led by former DGP Siby Mathews took over the case on November 15, 1994.
SIT arrested ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan, Chandrasekharan and SK Sharma who were businessmen based in Bengaluru. They were accused of selling ISRO's cryogenic programme secrets to the women who were allegedly acting as spies for Russia, ISI and others.
Following the ISRO spy case in 1995, Karunakaran had to step down from the post of chief minister after Congress (A) group faction mounted protests demanding his resignation.