Padmaja Venugopal, Congress veteran K Karunakaran’s daughter, to join BJP

Congress MP and brother of Padmaja Venugopal, K Muraleedharan, called it an act of “treason”.
Padmaja Venugopal
Padmaja Venugopal
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In a setback to Congress in Kerala ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Padmaja Venugopal, the daughter of former Congress Chief Minister K Karunakaran, is set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress leader met BJP leaders in New Delhi on Wednesday, March 6. Padmaja Venguopal was also the General Secretary of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). In April, 2023, Anil Antony, former head of Congress party's digital media head in Kerala and son of veteran leader AK Antony, a former Defence Minister had joined BJP.

While Anil, who is now the national secretary of the party and a candidate for Pathanamthitta Lok Sabha constituency, did not have much experience working for the party, Padmaja was active in the party. A vice president of the Indian National Congress, she was a member of the party’s political affairs committee in January this year.

Padmaja contested from the Thrissur assembly constituency in 2016 and 2021 and lost both times. She had alleged that people from within the Congress party had defeated her. Padmaja was upset at the party for not taking action against these people and instead accommodating them in the party. Padmaja told Asianet News that she was leaving the Congress heartbroken and the option in front of her was to leave politics completely as staying back in the Congress had become untenable. She chose the second option of staying back in politics and joining the BJP.

While Anil Antony has been announced as the BJP candidate from Pathanamthitta, there is some speculation that Padmaja will contest from Chalakudy. One BJP source told TNM that if she does not contest, the party will seek her help to campaign in Thrissur and help their candidate Suresh Gopi. Actor Suresh Gopi is Padmaja’s friend and is learnt to have played a role in bringing her to the BJP.

Congress MP and brother of Padmaja Venugopal, K Muraleedharan, called it an act of “treason” and announced that the family will sever ties with Padmaja. “We won’t allow those affiliated to the BJP to even come near Karunakaran’s memorial. Let us see if NOTA or BJP gets more votes,” he added. He also said that their father’s soul will not forgive Padmaja.

Padmaja’s husband Dr Venugopal said that the former general secretary of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) had felt that she was sidelined by the party on many occasions, and was also disappointed with the delay in the construction of a memorial after K Karunakaran. He also said that the Congress party deliberately denied Padmaja support to win the elections in Thrissur and did not listen to the issues raised by her. When Priyanka Gandhi visited Kerala for an election campaign, Padmaja was stopped by the Congress cadre from entering her vehicle.  

Considered as a stalwart in Kerala politics, K Karunakaran was the chief minister on four occasions. He served as Kerala’s CM from 30 March 1977 to 25 April 1977, from 28 December 1981 to 17 March 1982, from 24 May 1982 to 25 March 1987 and from 24 June 1991 to 16 March 1995. 

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